By JOSH FRYE
The stadium lights at Herbert Barnes Field were once again shining bright last Friday, May 14, at Escambia County High as the Blue Devils’ varsity and junior varsity football squads took to the field for round robin scrimmage action against Chickasaw and B.C. Rain.
The scrimmage, which was compiled of five 12-minute quarters, paired Chickasaw and B.C. Rain against one another during first quarter action. During the second quarter, ECHS welcomed Chickasaw. According to head coach Scott Mason, the Blue Devils were left scrambling to prepare a backup quarterback in place of starter Anthony McCants, who missed the scrimmage due to a shoulder injury from a prior baseball game.
“Not having McCants really hurt us,” Mason said. “We prepared junior Nehemiah Tucker to fill in and he did an outstanding job.”
Mason stressed that Tucker entered the game with very little experience within the pocket and with the exception of a few botched plays or misreads, played well. James Whatley, a freshman running back, ran the ball well for several plays against Chickasaw, but his night ended early with just over 5 minutes left with a rolled ankle. To add to the injury list, junior linebacker Donovan Robinson, who gained several early tackles, ended his night early as he fell awkwardly on his neck. “Robinson and Whatley were having a great game,” Mason said. “Both were seeing the field well and it just ended in bad luck. Both are outstanding players and we will have them back soon.”
Chickasaw defeated ECHS, 6-0, during the 1-quarter game.
During the third quarter of the round robin, ECHS was defeated by B.C. Rain, 6-0. According to Mason, despite the loss, the Blue Devils played really well.
“We just need to stop shooting ourselves in the foot,” Mason said. “We need to eliminate penalties and follow through with good drives.”
Early in the quarter, ECHS drove the ball downfield, but were halted from scoring due to a holding call. Later in the quarter, the Blue Devils had another promising drive, but were again stopped short. Late in the quarter, B.C. Rain was able to make good on a long drive downfield and scored the only points of the scrimmage.
During the fourth and fifth quarters, ECHS’s junior varsity team matched up against Chickasaw and B.C. Rain. The junior Blue Devils captured a victory during each game of the round robin, winning both matchups by 2 touchdowns. According to Mason, ECHS coach Layton Knight did an outstanding job with the JV squad. “Those guys went out and played hard and smart,” Mason said. “Knight has been able to do a great job with those kids and we are looking forward to seeing what they will bring to the table.”
According to Mason, sophomore quarterback E.J. Thomas played an outstanding 2 quarters and was able to score twice.
Coach Knight was unavailable for comment.
With several players not returning to this year’s squad, Mason stressed that he’s excited with the opportunity to introduce new blood on the field. According to the ECHS coach, the Blue Devils outgained both Chickasaw and B.C. Rain in yardage, despite what the scoreboard read.
“We drove the ball very well,” Mason said. “We had to keep things very vanilla because of injuries, but I was impressed. The offensive line ran and blocked well and defensively we were solid. We still have a lot of things to work on and we were bent at times during both games, but we did not break.”
According to Mason, Mason Huggins, Carmelo Turner, Keeshan McKenzie, Terry Martin, Christian Lee, Jannerious Moore and Kaidan Arnold all had great games and will be leaders on the upcoming 2021 team.
Mason said that over the course of the summer, the main focus of the team will be staying healthy. He added that there will be several camps and 7-on-7 opportunities and that the Blue Devils will be ready to play against Bayside for the season opener on Friday, August 20.