Defensive effort wasted against Class 5A Eagles

The musical accompaniment to this year’s Escambia County High School football season has been stuck in a continuous loop for about six weeks, as turnovers have killed strong efforts against state-ranked teams. The musical loop continued its mournful drone last Friday (October 20).

A stellar effort on the part of the ECHS defense was offset by a lethargic offense and three key misplays on the part of the ECHS special teams. Carroll High-Ozark, which came into the game as the third-ranked team in Class 5A, took advantage of the special teams errors to score 16 of its points in a 28-6 win over the Blue Devils.

“We couldn’t get anything going on offense, but we played with them on defense,” said Rico Jackson, Escambia’s first-year head coach. “We dropped one punt; they scored a touchdown off that. Then, on another punt, we snapped the ball over the punter’s head, and they scored a touchdown off that. We dropped the ball on another punt, and they got a safety. We just gave them those 16 points.”

Jackson said there were several bright spots on defense, especially the play of sophomore middle linebacker Jeffery Wilson.

“I thought Jeffrey Wilson played well at middle linebacker and at defensive end when we moved him out there,” the coach said. “We had a bunch of boys who did a good job, but Jeffery kind of stood out.”

The Devils, who lost their fifth straight game (all against ranked opponents), finally got on the scoreboard in the final period. Ja’Maya Frye broke loose for a 70-yard scamper to set up a 5-yard scoring burst by William Bradley.

Jackson said prior to the season that the team wouldn’t be looking for moral victories this season. He agreed, though, that the loss to Carroll, along with a similar effort against sixth-ranked Thomasville two weeks ago, have proven to be just that.

“I think the kids have picked up a little confidence,” he said. “You always want a win, but I think they are starting to gel. We’re not playing for moral victories, but I think these two games have made them see that they can play with anybody. Carroll is number 3 in 5A, plus we played them there, after a three-hour bus ride.”

The ECHS squad will make its final bid for a postseason slot when it hosts W.S Neal this week. A win over Neal, combined with a Satsuma loss to Thomasville, would leave ECHS, Neal and Satsuma in a three-way tie for the region’s fourth playoff seed and would force a tiebreaker.

“We’ve got to get ready for Neal and try to make this thing a three-way tie for that fourth playoff spot,” said Jackson. “Neal (2-3 in the region, 3-5 overall) has a good team. They’re big in spots, and they’ve got some good skill kids.”

If Neal wins, and Satsuma loses to Thomasville, Neal will get the fourth Region 1 playoff position. If Neal wins and Satsuma upsets Thomasville (which has lost only to top-ranked Andalusia and third-ranked UMS-Wright), Satsuma and Thomasville will wind up in a tie for the third and fourth spots.

If ECHS wins and Satsuma upsets Thomasville, Satsuma would get the postseason berth on the strength of its win over the Blue Devils.