By JOSH FRYE
Escambia Academy’s Cougars came out on the short end of a 20-19 score in a wild, last-minute heartbreaker against Tuscaloosa Academy’s Knights last Friday, September 6, on EA’s home field.
The one-point setback was the second such loss in the two games EA has played this season. They dropped a 21-20 decision to Presbyterian Christian School in their August 23 opener, played in Hattiesburg, Miss.
The Cougars wasted no time getting on the board first during the first quarter against TA and put up an early 7-0 lead that came in the form of a 68-yard touchdown scamper by Shannon Wheat, the first of two long runs the senior had on the night.
EA’s defense stood strong against Tuscaloosa’s offensive advances, and Wheat’s score would mark the only points of the first quarter.
As the second quarter got underway, despite a huge defensive stop from Jabo Davis and Riley Baggett, the Knights broke free and evened the score at 7-7 with 6:30 left in the period.
The news got worse for the Cougars as quarterback Landon Sims threw an interception, spotting the ball for TA on its own 1-yard line. The Cougars took advantage of the lousy field position and forced a safety, retaking the lead 9-7.
Wheat and the Cougars defense helped to protect the lead and Escambia headed to the dressing room for halftime.
EA received the ball for the second half but was held strong by the TA defense.
With 9:40 left to go in the third quarter, Sims fumbled after taking a big hit on a quarterback keeper, and possession went back to the Knights.
In the final minutes of the third period, Sims and Company used a series of Wheat and Sims runs to set up an Orlando Medina field goal attempt with just 54.7 seconds left in the quarter. Medina put a good boot to the ball, and the Cougars extended the lead to 12-7 going into the final quarter.
Wheat scored again, this time on a 60-yard run that extended the Cougars lead to a seemingly unsurmountable 19-7 margin with 8:18 left to play.
TA fired back with a 48-yard touchdown run just two minutes later, closing its deficit to 19-14. Then, despite a strong stance from the Cougars defense, the Knights came up with another 42-yard touchdown run, overtaking the lead 20-19.
The touchdown series by TA left the Cougars fired up as the game’s last minutes ticked away, and Sims and Company took to the field for a last-gasp scoring attempt.
As the time clock and penalties aided the Knights, EA looked to Medina for a game-winning field goal attempt. With just 9.2 seconds on the clock, Medina ran onto the field for a 40-yard try that, if successful, would put the Cougars back in the lead.
The snap wasn’t true, and Medina’s kick sailed wide right, securing the heartbreaking 20-19 win for Tuscaloosa.
Individual stats and comments were not made available by Tuesday’s press deadlines.
EA will travel to Clarke Prep this Friday, September 13 for its first region encounter of the season.