By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Although the final score was reason enough to bring a smile to Escambia County High Coach Rico Jackson’s face, it was the way his team went about posting that score that brought the biggest smile.
“They played hard; they competed,” said the ECHS coach after his varsity team downed T.R. Miller 16-7 in the first half of Friday’s preseason contest. “T.R. Miller scored first, but it didn’t matter. Our guys kept playing, kept overcoming adversity. Overall, it was a good game.”
The Tigers lit up the scoreboard with 5:25 to play in the opening stanza when Jalen Walker’s 1-yard burst and the PAT kick gave them a 7-0 lead. But that advantage didn’t last long.
The Blue Devils regained the lead for good 15 seconds later when Malik Brown returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards, and Dmitri Williams went in for the 2-point conversion.
“Malik really changed the momentum of the game with that kick return,” said Jackson.
The Blue Devils also overcame adversity in another fashion. Their second touchdown came only after two other scores on the same drive were negated by penalties.
In the second period, from the shadow of his own goalposts, senior quarterback Jordaun Patterson spotted Lue Williams open down the right sideline. Patterson’s pass found its mark, and Williams outran the defenders the remainder of the way for an apparent 94-yard score.
Most of that yardage was wiped out by an illegal block, and the Devils began play 33 yards from the goal line. Brown swept 20 yards, then Patterson found Demetrion Barnes for an apparent 13-yard TD toss. Again, a penalty wiped out the score.
Instead of folding, the determined ECHS squad continued its quest. It was a case of “third time lucky” when Patterson hit Jabryce Hooks for an 18-yard score that was not accompanied by a flag, then passed to Williams for the 2-point conversion and a 16-7 lead.
That lead stood over the half’s final 5:17 as the home team’s defensive unit continued to shut down almost everything T.R. Miller tried.
“Our defense ran to the ball,” the ECHS coach said. “They played disciplined for the most part. They played with energy, passion and technique.”
Jackson pointed out that the team’s aerial success was due not only to Patterson’s maturity, but to the work of the blockers up front.
“Our offensive line did an outstanding job of keeping the defense off Jordaun,” he said. “Jordaun has really worked on his game, and he’s starting to show everybody that the time and effort he has put in is making him a good quarterback.”
After the varsity squad finished its night’s work, the team’s JV unit carried on in the same fashion, overcoming numerous penalties to claim a 6-0 win over the Junior Tigers when Jacoby James went in for a touchdown.
“The JV is our future, so I’m excited,” said Jackson. “We’ve got to clean some stuff up, but overall I was proud of them.”
ECHS’s first real test will come this Friday, August 31, when the team travels to play Class 5A Wilcox Central, a team they beat 8-0 last year, in the regular season opener.
“Now they’ll start to count,” the Blue Devils coach said. “Overall, we played a good game against T.R. Miller, but we’ve got to get that out of our system. It’s a good start to 2018, but you can’t live in the past. If we play hard, play with aggression, and everybody does his job, it should be a good night for us.”