By PAOLO GORME
News Sports Writer
The Escambia Academy Cougars ended their regular season on the road at Bessemer Academy. The Rebels are a familiar foe dating back to 2014 when the Cougars lost in the regular season but prevailed in the state championship game that same season.
Friday night’s game was a wild one. The contest was won by EA 34-27. Each team’s offensive success came from the run game. EA produced 242 of their 319 yards from the ground attack. Bessemer had 215 yards on the ground with 234 yards of total offense. Each team also had 1 turnover. The Cougars lost a fumble and the Rebels threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown.
Penalties played a huge role in the game as well. The Cougars were penalized 12 times that cost them 55 yards and the Rebels were penalized 8 times and lost 35 yards.
“When we don’t play penalized football we’re a good football team. Those penalties hurt us because we were in a good groove especially in the middle parts of the game. Other than that, everyone played a good game tonight and contributed to the effort. This is a huge win for us tonight because we haven’t beaten Bessemer except for in the state championship game in 2014 and we’re very proud we got the win and be 9-1,” said Coach Hugh Fountain after the game.
The Rebels won the toss and elected to receive the ball. Their first possession produced 7 points after Jalen Conwell scored on a 45-yard run and Jay Fitch tacked on the extra point. Pat McGhee answered with a 1-yard run but the extra point by Jace Daniels was blocked. The score was 7-6 advantage Bessemer after a quarter of play.
In the second quarter, Austin Clarke scored on a 9-yard run with Fitch’s extra point no good and increased the lead to 13-6 for the Rebels. Fred Flavors had a rushing touchdown from 4 yards out and cut the lead down to 1. Towards the end of the first half, Coach Fountain called for a trick play where Daniels lined up at receiver behind MJ Jones. Jabe Dawe received the snap and Daniels caught the pass from Dawe and Daniels heaved the ball to McGhee who was wide open in the end zone. Neikel Robinson scored the 2-point conversion and the Cougars took the lead 20-13.
To start the second half, the Cougars didn’t stop the scoring. Flavors lined up in the backfield and took the ball 60 yards to the end zone. Kameron Bowen scored the 2-point conversion and increased the lead to 28-13 for the Cougars. The last score for EA was a pick 6 by Neikel Robinson for about 40 yards. A 2-point conversion was attempted after the score but it failed to gain and the score became 34-13. It seemed the game was over, but the Rebels looked like they were mounting a comeback late in the fourth quarter.
After Bessemer’s Conwell scored on a 4-yard run, the score became 34-20. On the ensuing kickoff, the Rebels kicked an onside kick, which was as perfect as you can kick an onside kick, and they recovered the ball at the Cougar 45-yard line. After a few near 3 and outs, Justin Jones scored from a yard out and with Fitch’s extra point good, they cut the lead down to a 1 touchdown game with 3:42 left in the game. Ultimately, the Cougars kept possession of the ball for the remaining 3:42 minutes of the game and outlasted the Rebels.
Some notable players were Fred Flavors, 136 yards rushing on 13 carries and met the end zone twice; Pat McGhee, 93 yards rushing on 9 carries with 1 touchdown; Jamie Welker led the way on the defensive side of the ball with 6 solo tackles and a tackle for loss.
Cornerstone Christian Academy will be EA’s opponent this Friday to open up postseason play. The game will be home at Bachelor Field in Canoe, at 7 p.m. Come out and support the Cougars on their quest to capture the state championship trophy. Go Cougars!