By JOSH FRYE
Over the course of the last few weeks Escambia County High’s Blue Devils have been preparing for the start of the 2019 football season by lifting the heavy iron within the fieldhouse weight room.
With temperatures hitting the 100-degree mark and the heat index soaring to a searing 110 degrees, the Blue Devils are preparing to strap on the pads for 7-on-7 drills.
The team’s philosophy this season under first year head coach Scott Mason is simple, drive the ball downfield quickly.
To opposing teams the Blue Devil game plan is written in black and white, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is how they will be able defend against plays that are going to be run so quickly that the line will not have any time to think, let alone adjust and react.
Mason’s “Thunder and Lighting” offense is to blame for that.
“The offense is compared to basketball, except on grass,” Mason said earlier this year. “It gives the opposing defense little time to react to the play and virtually no time to shift or defend it.”
The offense, designed to be quick and deadly, features a mix of running and passing plays. The problem is that the ball will be released into a pass or run so quickly, the defense will have no clue which direction it will go.
In May, a small preview of this was offered to ECHS supporters as the Blue Devils took on Northview in a three-quarter, preseason contest.
At that time, the concept was new to the players of ECHS, but by the time August rolls around, the concept will be grasped and perfected.
Blue Devils quarterback Jaccob Hammac, a transfer from Florala High, Mason’s previous team, will be guiding the ECHS offense this season.
Hammac is more than familiar with the “thunder and lightning” concept and is no stranger to gaining yardage and wins from it.
Hammac was first coached by Mason during the 2017 season, when the young quarterback made Alabama High School Athletic Association record books by completing 202 of 348 passes for 2,569 yards and 27 touchdowns, all in just nine games.
Hammac’s abilities and football sense represent a strong example of how the offense can punish an opposing team.
“Having Jaccob on the field is like having another coach with us,” said Mason. “He knows the routine and can make calls based on the defensive alignment, especially if they spring before the snap.”
Mason explained that Hammac understands the coverages and when the right audible needs to be called.
“As he has become more seasoned, he has become more knowledgeable and can help lead the ball to where it needs to be,” Mason said. “He knows that he doesn’t have to go to the air on every single play. He knows where he can and can’t go at different times.”
Mason explained that the offense the Blue Devils will be running will set the tempo for the game. When the tempo of a game is controlled by a team, the game usually is as well.
The Blue Devils first task of the season will come during preseason action in which they will take on former rival T.R. Miller. The Tigers also have a new face at head coach.
Brent Hubbert made the transition to T.R. Miller, replacing last year’s coach Keith Etheridge, after coaching for 15 seasons in Maplesville. During his tenure at Maplesville, Hubbert led his team to three straight Class 1A state titles (2014-2016).
The new T.R. Miller coach’s teams have appeared in four state championship games and have tallied three trips to state semifinals.
“Hibbert is a good coach and has a similar coaching philosophy,” said Mason. “If we can take down Miller, we will be able to create a huge statement, but we better pack our lunchbox because that is going to be a tough opponent.”
After traveling to Miller for the final season tune-up, ECHS will face Monroe County High School in its regular-season opener.