By JOSH FRYE
Despite extremely high temperatures Escambia Academy’s football team returned to the practice field on Monday after a short break.
The Cougars had last week off but scrambled back into the weight room this week to pick up where they had left off in their preseason conditioning and training.
“After five days off, the guys are right back into the groove of things,” head coach Hugh Fountain said.
As players fought back sweat, the grunts and sounds of weights clinking against metal could be heard in the Cougars fieldhouse on Monday.
“The guys are looking good,” Fountain said. “We have a young team and the key is for them to come together. We have the majority of the team onboard and putting forth the desired effort.”
For the majority of the summer, the focus of EA has been conditioning and weight training.
With a fairly young team, the coaching staff has been putting in some major hours to help the young men reach their peak potential prior to the start of the season.
As EA’s headmaster and head football coach, Fountain has carried a full platter of duties that have required his attention.
“I do have a lot of things going on,” said Fountain. “As headmaster and head coach, I have to help EA be the best school that it can possibly be.”
Fountain, a graduate of W.S. Neal High School, started his coaching career at the early age of 23. Over the years he has coached a slew of players and eventually found a home at EA.
Last season’s star player, Patrick McGhee, will not be present in the lineup this season as he graduated in May and has moved into the college arena.
Fountain stressed that the loss of McGhee is one that hits the Cougars football program hard.
“Over the past few years, our team has had a decent lineup of great players that help to fill the shoes of other great players that we lose,” Fountain said. “In the case of Patrick, no one person can fill his shoes. It is going to be a team effort to replace the tempo that he set.”
Last season, McGhee scored 39 touchdowns, an enormous feat for any player.
In the coming weeks the Cougars will continue to work within the weight room and without pads on the field.
The players have been affected the past week by heat indexes that exceed the 120-degree mark but have pushed on.
The Cougars have yet to receive a confirmation from an opponent for a pre-season game, despite invitations that have been extended to numerous potential opponents.
EA will enter camp in three weeks with 44 players on the roster, of which 15 are seniors.
Fountain stated that players such as Shannon Wheat, Daughtry McGhee and Tyrese Smith have started to take the reign as leaders and will be the players their teammates will look to for guidance.
“We have a pretty big senior number this season, but only a few will produce the leadership that we need,” Fountain said. “This season will feature the strength of guys that are not known. They will have to play for one another and hold each other up. If we can succeed in that as a team, we will be successful.”
The Cougars are slated to begin regular season play Friday, August 30, with a road game against Snook Christian Academy in Summerdale.