By PAOLO GORME
News Staff Writer
For the second time in school history, the Escambia Academy football team brought home a state championship trophy to Canoe, winning the game 30-20.
Last Friday’s game, November 17, in Troy University’s Veterans Memorial Stadium, was only the fourth time EA has played a state championship game and they have all been under Head Coach Hugh Fountain.
The Cougars put on a spectacular show at the big stage against Autauga Academy. Earlier in the season, Autauga defeated the Cougars 42-20 to give them their only loss of the season.
Autauga came into the game undefeated and as the reigning 2A state champions. EA undoubtedly dominated on all aspects throughout the game. The Cougars even led the Generals 30-7 at one point in the fourth quarter.
“I’m tremendously proud of these boys for all they did this season. I’m also proud of them for gutting it out in this game and having courage and getting after it. We brought it out on Autauga and played Cougar football and the hard work the boys did to get here paid off,” Coach Fountain said shortly after the victory.
The Cougars won the coin toss and elected to kickoff first in this exciting game. The Generals drove the ball down the field into Cougar territory. However, they fumbled the ball at the EA 30 yard line at the 8:35 mark. Fumble recovered by Jamie Welker. Three minutes passed in the quarter and Pat McGhee broke off on a 52-yard run setting up a first and goal from the 5 yard line. Seven seconds later, Jabe Dawe scored on a 3-yard quarterback sneak and put the Cougars on the board first. The 2- point conversion failed and the score was 6-0.
The ferocious Cougar defense forced a 3 and out at their own 23 yard line on the ensuing offensive possession for the Generals. Autauga attempted a fake field goal but EA would not be fooled and EA took over on downs. Neikel Robinson blew past the cornerback on a 51-yard passing touchdown with 2:43 left in the opening quarter, and it put the Cougars up 12-0.
On the Generals’ next possession, the tenacity of the defense showed as they swarmed quarterback Tripp Carr and forced him to fumble the ball which was picked up by defensive lineman Jason Davis who ran it in for 30 yards with no opponent around him. The 2-point conversion once again failed and the Cougars were on top 18-0. Autauga did not give up without scoring a touchdown in the first quarter and they did so with 37 seconds left. James Woods scored a 58-yard passing touchdown and their extra point was good which made the score 18-7 to end the opening quarter.
The second quarter was scoreless between the two teams as they battled for the state title.
Nine minutes and 12 seconds passed in the third quarter until Fred Flavors caught an unbelievable pass from Jabe Dawe and ran in the end zone untouched for 66 yards. The 2-point conversion failed but still built on the Cougars lead 24-7.
As the buzzer sounded, signaling the end of the third, it was the start of the last quarter of the season.
With 10:45 left in the game, Louie Turner picked off Tripp Carr’s pass. Roughly 3 minutes passed and the Cougars were at the goal line. Turner capitalized on his interception with a rushing touchdown from the 1 yard line. He did so by going over the top of his stout linemen. The point after was no good and made the score 30-7. The energy on the sideline was electric after the touchdown. The Cougars of Canoe were ready to hoist that state championship trophy as soon as the buzzer sounded.
But don’t count the Generals out of the game. Running back Javon Brown scored on a 13-yard run with 5:12 left in the game. The next offensive possession for EA was a 3 and out, giving the ball back to Autauga. Javon Brown scored again from a yard out with 4:01 left. They attempted a 2-point conversion but it failed.
The score now was 30-20. The Cougars held the ball, converting on third downs to keep the ball in their possession. Turner and McGhee fought hard for yardage. With the ball inside the 30 yard line with 23 seconds left in the game, Jabe Dawe took a knee with the ball and the Cougars’ sideline flooded the field with screams and hollers as they just captured the state championship trophy they had their eyes on long before the season started. Hard work and dedication really pays off. As a state champion myself, I know the feeling firsthand and there is no feeling like it. The feeling of accomplishment with your brothers and coaches is just unmatched. The sweat you pour in the weight room and the field in the summer heat, the hard practices in preparation for games such as these, having your eyes on the end goal: hoist the state championship trophy in the middle of Troy University’s field is dedication like no other.
“We really came together and busted our butts throughout the season for each other and we won this game more for each other than for ourselves and our brotherhood got us the trophy,” junior quarterback Jabe Dawe said.
“You know, they couldn’t stop us especially when we play our best football which is Cougar football. It was a really good game and they couldn’t stop us. Winning another ring here means a lot to me and for my brothers on the field and for EA,” were words from senior receiver Fred Flavors.
“It feels great winning my first ring. Our brotherhood is a bond that no one can break and everyone played their part to let this season be a success,” said senior running back Louie Turner.
“This is the reason why I came to EA: brotherhood. Brotherhood is what got us here and the family atmosphere the coaches give us is like no other. Winning this ring with my brothers is just incredible, man,” senior receiver MJ Jones said.
Some offensive statistics: Jabe Dawe threw for 3 of 6 for 132 yards with 2 touchdowns. Louie Turner ran for 120 yards on 22 carries with a touchdown. Pat McGhee had 105 yards rushing on 13 carries. Neikel Robinson had 2 receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown. Fred Flavors also had a touchdown on 66 yards with 1 reception.
The Generals had 318 yards of total offense with 246 yards passing and 72 yards rushing. The Cougars had 377 yards of total offense with 132 yards through the air and 245 on the ground.
The EA defense had 3 takeaways and that was one of the keys to winning the game.
Congratulations to the boys, the coaches, and everyone who’s been involved with the team and for their support throughout the season! And as always Go
Paolo Gorme is a 2017 graduate of Escambia Academy. He played on the 2014 state championship team and on the 2016 championship runner-up team.