By JOSH FRYE
Escambia County High’s slim playoff hopes were crushed last Friday, October 16, as W.S. Neal walked away with a 20-9 victory over the visiting Blue Devils.
Despite strong performances from Brian Brown, James Whatley, Dezmun Crenshaw, Anthony McCants and Aaron Calva, ECHS fell short of this season’s target.
“It hurts,” ECHS head coach Scott Mason said. “We came in with the goal of being in that (playoff) picture this season, but we were unable to do so. This was a must-win situation, and we did not deliver. It is a hard pill to swallow.”
The Blue Eagles drew first blood with an early first-quarter touchdown, but the Blue Devils answered back late before the horn with a McCants 1-yard dash that was set up by a 16-yerd Willie Banks carry.
Calva booted the extra point, but the play was called back due to an offsides call, and the second attempt fell short.
Trailing 7-6 at the start of the third quarter, the Blue Devils overtook the lead as Calva kicked a 32-yard field goal, giving ECHS a 9-7 advantage.
That lead, however, was short-lived as the Blue Eagles scored twice in the fourth period.
WSN held onto the football for the majority of the fourth quarter, while the Blue Devils had only one possession, and it ended in a turnover.
McCants completed 7 of 11 pass attempts for 52 yards, with one interception, and had 7 carries for 10 yards. Mason Huggins had 7 carries for 20 yards, and Banks carried 6 times for 29 yards.
Defensively, Brown and Whatley had eight or more tackles each.
ECHS logged 190 total yards during the contest, while WSN put up 225 yards.
The Blue Devils had 138 rushing yards and turned the ball over downs once.
Mason stressed that the struggle with a young, inexperienced team was not made any easier this season with the presence of the coronavirus.
Practices started late, spring training was obsolete, quarterbacks lost 7-on-7 trainings and the preparation schedule as a whole was non-existent.
When two hurricanes were factored into the equation, the rhythm of things were thrown off even more.
With one region game left — a home contest against Jackson this Friday, October 23 — and an October 30, season-ending, non-region road game against Flomaton, Mason stressed that this is a good opportunity to play some of his younger players.
“We are going to play these games just like any other,” he said. “It is a chance for us to go out on a good note and start preparing for next season.”
With the loss, ECHS is now 2-6 overall and 1-4 in Class 4A, Region 1 play.