ECHS overcomes delays, posts 21-15 decision over Clarke
By JOSH FRYE
Despite delays from thunder and lightning and miserable field conditions, the Escambia County Blue Devils provided a little thunder and lightning of their own last Friday, October 4.
ECHS improved to 4-2 on the season and 3-1 in Class 4A, Region 1 with a 21-15 win over Clarke County, the first homecoming victory in six years for the Blue Devils.
After a delay of almost an hour due to lightning, ECHS drew blood early when Cole Jennings took the football to the house on a pick-six interception off the first Bulldogs drive. Aaron Calva kicked the extra point, and the Blue Devils led 7-0.
The home team struck again with just over three minutes left in the first quarter as Hammac, who wound up with 19 yards and a touchdown on seven rushes, went 3 yards for a touchdown off a fake field goal attempt by Calva, whose extra point put ECHS in front 14-0.
Clarke started the second quarter with a counter charge, as a blocked punt set up a 5-yard Bulldogs rushing touchdown to make it 14-7.
With 8:25 left to play in the first half, rain and lightning cut the ECHS game short once again, sending players and fans scurrying to drier locations.
The storms caused a 45-minute delay, but the game picked back up with an ECHS fumble recovery that set up a 30-yard pass from Hammac to Jaylen Barnes with just 20.7 seconds to play in the half. Calva’s kick gave the Blue Devils a 21-7 lead and represented the last point they would get.
After halftime festivities, Clarke set up to kick the ball away to ECHS for the start of the half. The first kick went out of bounds for a reset. So did the second, third, and fourth attempts.
Finally, the Bulldogs came up with a returnable kick, and ECHS took over. But another promising drive was cut short by a fumble that was recovered by the visitors. ECHS immediately forced a Clarke fumble, retaking possession.
With 3:50 left to play in the third, Clarke County forced another turnover on a fumble and drove downfield for an apparent touchdown. The Bulldogs’ celebration was cut short by the officials, as the score was called back due to a holding call.
The penalty gave ECHS a brief bit of relief, but the Bulldogs eventually scored on a 2-yard push up the middle with 7.6 seconds left in the third quarter. A successful two-point conversion, and the scoring gap was closed to 21-15, which would prove to be the final score.
The fourth quarter proved to be close matched, with neither team able to make much headway due to game clock arguments and another delay that occurred when the timed sprinkler system at Herbert Barnes Stadium turned on and stopped play.
ECHS ultimately held off the Bulldogs and took the homecoming win in one of the longest, most bizarre games in school history.
“We grew up,” ECHS head coach Scott Mason said after the narrow win. “I think we finally figured out who we are. The weather made things tough. The pigskin was slippery and hard to throw. It made for interesting football, but the guys battled through the elements and played a good game.”
Hammac also went 3-for-10 passing, for 31 yards and the touchdown, while Willie Banks carried the ball 13 times for 36 yards and Craig Brown ran three times for 37 yards.
The Blue Devils have a grueling schedule coming in the next few weeks. They currently hold second place in region standings, but must play Andalusia, UMS-Wright and Williamson, each of which made the playoffs last year, on successive weeks before any postseason hopes can be realized.
ECHS could get into the playoffs with a win in just one of those contests but needs to win two to draw a favorable seeding that includes a home game.
“We must win at least one game to make playoffs,” Mason said. “We face Andalusia this week and will see UMS-Wright and Williamson back-to-back. The key to success is going to be health. Guys have to stay healthy, and we must be able to eliminate mistakes and execute on plays. It is going to be a test.”
ECHS will host Andalusia this Friday, October 11.