ECHS, EA, JUB kick off season Friday
By JOSH FRYE
After months of anticipation and uncertainty, the time has finally come for high school football teams and fans to experience the 2020 season’s kickoff.
This Friday, August 21, local high school football stadiums which have been silent for several months will return to life as the pandemic-restricted season kicks off.
Many changes have been made this season, not only to team rosters and schedules, but in safety rules as well due to Covid-19.
ECHS vs. Bayside Academy
“We are very excited to take the field Friday night,” Escambia County High School head coach Scott Mason said.
According to Mason, the Blue Devils have taken every precaution to help keep the virus out of the fieldhouse and the school.
After a shortened summer workout session, the Blue Devils will take to their home field this Friday night to face Bayside Academy.
There was uncertainty over whether Bayside would be able to field a team for the Friday night opener due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Monday afternoon it was confirmed that Bayside would make the Friday bus trip to ECHS.
“They will be a tough opponent,” Mason said. “I have played against them in the past with other schools I have coached, and they will put up a fight.”
Mason stressed that the Blue Devils would have to be physical against the Admirals to stand a chance in that fight.
EA vs. Presbyterian Christian
The Cougars of Escambia Academy will host Presbyterian Christian School from Hattiesburg, Miss., on Friday.
According to Cougars Head Coach Hugh Fountain, the Bobcats are a formidable opponent with a lot of talent, but the Cougars are set on continuing the winning tradition that has set the tone for EA over the last four years with state championship appearances.
“The bar is set very high for the team and school,” Fountain said. “We have been blessed with appearances in the state championship game for the past four years in a row, but these guys have to create their own merit.”
Fountain explained that the key for the Cougars will be to be physical and to set the tempo early.
The Cougars have a slew of impact players returning, as well as one new addition to the lineup which is a recognizable name in the area.
Landon Sims will be the returning quarterback and will be joined by returning linemen Chris Long, Brady Howell, J.J. Stevens, Troy Fountain and Hunter Smith.
Daughtry McGhee will provide backfield support and will be joined by a new face to EA, former J.U. Blacksher standout player, JaDaniel “Bubba” Nettles.
Last season Nettles helped lead JUB’s Bulldogs into postseason play.
This year Nettles has traded in his Bulldogs jersey for a Cougars jersey and will be a much-welcomed asset to the EA squad, which will begin the season ranked sixth in the Alabama Sportswriter Association’s pre-season AISA poll.
J.U. Blacksher vs. Luverne
The Bulldogs will welcome the Luverne High Tigers this Friday in their first contest of the season.
Earlier this year the Bulldogs were reclassified into Area 2A. Along with the reclassification comes the challenge of facing teams the school has never faced before.
The Bulldogs received one vote in the Alabama Sportswriter Association pre-season polls.
Last season, JUB made it into the playoffs, but was knocked out early. According to JUB head coach Wes Sims, this season is going to be tough after losing several standout players.
J.T. Tucker, who helped lead the Bulldogs into post-season play last year, graduated. K.D. Rabb, the team’s standout quarterback from last season, is not with the team due to personal reasons and will not be on the field this Friday.
JaDaniel “Bubba” Nettles, who teamed with Rabb and Tucker to lead JUB last season, transferred to Escambia Academy.
With roster, classification and Covid-19 changes, Sims expressed that the Bulldogs will not be as ready as they would like to be as they take the field against the Tigers this week.
“I am not going to lie about it,” Sims said. “I do not feel like we are ready. We are still missing some pieces of the puzzle and it is going to be a tough battle Friday night.”
Sims said he is looking for the younger players to step up and gain experience, while senior players are being depended upon to help pave the way.
“We have to get the first game behind us and, while we are looking forward to getting back onto the field, I am afraid that we are not ready.”