Cougars fall to Autauga for second straight year
By JOSH FRYE
The Cougars of Escambia Academy suffered another heartbreaking loss in the AISA Class AA State Championship game, falling for the second year in a row to the Autauga Academy Generals last Friday, November 22, in Troy.
After being shutout against the Generals last year, 49-0, the Cougars set out on a redemption-seeking mission at Troy University, but wound up on the short end of a 23-6 decision.
With a fourth straight championship game appearance and without graduated star player Patrick McGhee, the Cougars main focus going into Friday’s game was pulling together.
According to EA head coach Hugh Fountain, the team overcame adversity and a slow start to the season with the help of key players such as Jabo Davis, Landon Sims, Shannon “Lolo” Wheat, Ty Williams, Tiquale Taylor, Daughtry McGhee and kicker Orlando Medina.
The focus for EA shifted from a single star player who could run the ball against almost any defense, to a family setting of widespread talent.
Friday’s title game started slowly for both teams, as each’s offense was shut down on potential scoring drives. By the end of the first quarter, the scoreboard read 0-0.
The Generals quickly opened up scoring during the second quarter, rushing in for a 10-yard touchdown at the 11:42 mark. Emma Wendland, the Autauga kicker, and only female kicker in the AISA, notched the PAT kick, and Autauga led 7-0.
With 9:35 left before the half, Sims found Williams with a 27-yard TD pass. That proved to be all the points EA would get, when Medina’s extra-point kick was wide left. The Cougars trailed 7-6 at that point.
Holding penalties killed off EA scoring chances for the rest of the half, despite long gains by Wheat and Daughtry, and the Cougars retired to the halftime locker room with the one-point advantage.
EA had 104 rushing yards and 34 passing yards during the first half, but five penalties cost them 50 yards.
Autauga had 48 rushing yards and 69 passing yards in the first half. Four flags set them back 45 yards.
With 4:49 left to play in the third quarter, the Generals completed a long pass that set up another TD. Williams was injured on the play when he collided with an official while defending the pass.
Williams stayed down for just over a minute as the Generals scoring strike was called back due to a holding a penalty.
With 32 seconds left to play in the quarter, Autauga scored on a 32-yard run.
The Generals followed up the play with a successful two-point conversion and extended their lead to 15-6.
With seven seconds left in the third, Sims fumbled the ball on a handoff, and the Generals recorded a 30-yard “scoop and score.”
Autauga converted on a successful two-point attempt and extended its lead to 23-6. Neither team could find the end zone during the fourth quarter, and Autauga sealed a second consecutive state championship victory over the Cougars.
“We didn’t execute that well,” said Fountain. “On defense we couldn’t have executed any better than what we did. Penalties really hurt us and kept us out of the groove. The penalty calls had a huge effect on the game. It seemed as if every time we would produce a positive play, a penalty would kill our chances.”
With 16 seniors playing their last game in a Cougar uniform, Fountain’s message was simple.
“I am very proud of each of these kids,” he said. “Making it to the state championship four years in a row is a huge accomplishment for any team. Despite the losses last season and this year, I am very proud of what they have accomplished.”