By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Although Escambia County High football coach Rico Jackson feels like his team still has a long way to go, he admitted that his team’s August 31 win over Class 5A Wilcox-Central went a long way toward restoring respectability to the long-stagnant ECHS program.
“We did pretty good, but there are still some things we have to work on,” the second-year ECHS coach said after his team posted a 42-0 win over the Jaguars that gave the team its first 2-0 start since 2010. “I’m happy about the win; our kids performed well, but we’ve got some stuff we’ve got to clean up.”
Escambia County opened the 2010 season with wins over T.R. Miller and B.C. Rain on the way to a 7-3 record and their most recent postseason appearance. That year, ECHS beat both Andalusia and Jackson in the state playoffs before falling to Bibb County.
Quarterback Jordaun Patterson connected on 10 of 15 passes for 271 yards and 4 touchdowns, 3 of them to Lue Williams, to lead last week’s offensive assault, as this year’s squad became the first ECHS unit since 2014 to put 40 points on the board. (ECHS beat Monroe County 42-30 in the final game of that season, giving the Devils their only win of the year.)
Malik Brown (6 carries, 75 yards) and Demetrion Barnes (8 carries, 50 yards) complemented Patterson’s passing, and a swarming defense led by sophomore Jacoby James, junior William Bradley and senior Deondre Freeman shut down the home-standing Jaguars on a muddy field in Camden.
Also contributing heavily to the offense were Williams, who hauled in 4 passes for 160 yards; Jabryce Hooks, who hauled in a 17-yard TD pass; and Barnes, who caught a 27-yard pass.
“They fought hard,” Jackson said of his squad’s overall effort. “We were playing up there, and the field was a muddy mess. But our players fought through all that and played hard.”
The Blue Devils struggled early to gain control on the drenched field, then finally began to click in the second period and took a 22-0 lead into the halftime locker. The ECHS reserves had begun filtering into the action before halftime and saw extensive playing time in the second half.
“We played well in the second quarter,” Jackson said. “The first quarter, we played a little sloppy. But they cleaned it up after that, even the young guys.”
One of those “young guys” was James, who is an offensive starter for ECHS’s junior varsity squad but shined on defense against the Jaguars. The 10th-grader had 6 solo tackles and a sack to lead a charge that also included stellar efforts by Bradley (5 tackles, including two for lost yardage, and a forced fumble) and Freeman (4 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 tackles for a loss). Junior Dmitri Wiggins added a pass interception.
The Blue Devils will travel to play region rival Monroe County on Friday as competition begins within Class 4A, Region 1.
A win over the Tigers, who pulled out a 12-8 win over Shield last week, would not only give ECHS a leg up in the region, but also its first 3-0 start since 2007. (The Blue Devils opened that season with wins over Alabama Christian, W.S. Neal, T.R. Miller and Hillcrest-Evergreen to highlight a 7-3 season that included a first-round playoff appearance.)
“It’s going to be a big game,” Jackson acknowledged. “It’s a rival game, it’s a region game, and it’s a chance to go 3-0. If our guys compete and do their jobs, we should be all right.”