By JOSH FRYE
The Escambia County High School Blue Devils started the 2021 football season off with a 35-6 defeat, following Saturday’s (August 21) season opener against the Bayside Academy Admirals.
Saturday’s game, which was originally scheduled for Friday, August 20, but was postponed due to area thunderstorms, offered a glimpse into what improvements are needed inside the offense and defense for the Blue Devils.
According to ECHS head coach Scott Mason, the game started off on the wrong foot almost immediately.
“We made some mistakes right out of the gate,” Mason said. “We gained several offensive penalties during our first drive of the game. First game jitters were mainly to blame for the mistakes. Guys missed tackles, went the wrong way, jumped offsides and forgot most of the things that we have been learning.”
Mason explained that the mistakes that were made are typical for young players during the first game of the season. For many of the Blue Devils players, this was the first time on a high school football stage. Mason added that playing on the road also played a factor on the young team’s nerves.
During the first quarter, Bayside scored on the first 3 drives and took a commanding, 21-0, advantage. During the second, the Admirals gained another touchdown while ECHS struggled to gain ground. At the half, Bayside led the Blue Devils, 28-0.
“We lost the first quarter,” Mason said. “Bayside is a good team that is on the rise, and rookie mistakes will cost you against a team like that. Usually, the first game of the season helps work out the nerves of young guys, but in this case, there was no room for error.”
During the second half of the game, Mason felt like the team gained ground and worked out rookie kinks. Despite ECHS’ improved performance during the third quarter, Bayside scored on another play, stretching the lead to 35-0. However, ECHS fought back during the fourth quarter and scored on a 5-yard run from junior quarterback Anthony McCants. The much-needed sign of life came too late for the Blue Devils and Bayside gained a 35-6 victory.
Besides registering the only points for ECHS, McCants completed 3 of 7 pass attempts for 29 yards. Junior quarterback Dakota Despain also gained time in the huddle for the Blue Devils. Despain rushed 6 times for a total of 26 yards and completed 5 of 9 nine pass attempts for 63 yards. Junior running back Mason Huggins rushed 7 times for 42 yards.
According to Mason, the goal for ECHS this week will be to settle down young nerves and prepare for this Friday’s contest against T.R. Miller.
“Miller is tough,” Mason said. “Miller will require us to come out of the gate firing. Young mistakes will need to be eliminated and the team will need to execute our scheme. If we can achieve that, we will have a chance at winning.”
The Blue Devils will visit the T.R. Miller Tigers this Friday, August 27 at 7 p.m. The first home appearance for ECHS will not occur until Friday, October 1, when they host Vigor.