Escambia Academy plays for AISA Class AA title on Friday
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Williams Station Day, Halloween and various fall festivals are long-standing traditions in and around Atmore. Another autumn tradition needs to be added to the list.
Escambia Academy’s football team is making its sixth straight trip to an AISA championship game. And had not Chambers Academy broken the string last year, EA’s opponent for this Friday’s (November 19) title showdown would strengthen the tradition even more.
For the fifth time in the past six years, the Cougars will take on Autauga Academy’s Generals in the title tilt.
EA football coach and headmaster Hugh Fountain said the title-game appearances have become old hat for some school supporters. He pointed out that the bubble could burst most any time.
“It’s remarkable, when you think about it,” Fountain said of the streak. “It’s been difficult to keep (the team’s) focus on everything because it’s not the same kids every year. A lot of people take it for granted, but they shouldn’t. I don’t. I’ve been coaching a long time and I know how hard it is to do it.”
The veteran coach, now in his eighth year at the helm of the EA program, pointed to Chambers Academy, the team the Cougars knocked off to advance to the championship contest, as an example of how things eventually run their course.
“The folks we beat last week had been to the championship game seven straight years (including at least once as a Class A team),” Fountain said. “It’s going to be hard to get seven years in a row, but it’s been a great run for them.”
Fountain agreed that a winning football program is one of the best advertisements any school could have.
“It’s a positive for the whole community,” he said. “We try not to get too full of ourselves, but this (streak) is good for recruiting families to come here, and it helps them to take pride in what we have to offer. People can always say, ‘Well, you’re a private school,’ or whatever, but when you’re winning, you can feel the excitement in the air for new parents. And when the kids are winners, it exhibits what kind of people you have at your school.”
Atmore Mayor Jim Staff agreed.
“It gives everybody a little more community pride when you have a local school play for a state championship,” the mayor said. “It’s great advertising for the whole community. It also has a positive impact on the kids. Any time you’re on a winning team of any kind, it makes you want to succeed more.”
Stacey Hardy, an EA teacher who (with a little help from some parents) feeds the players each week during the season, said the team’s winning tradition, especially with the state-title streak, strengthens participation in the team’s booster club.
“It helps make a strong booster club, and it’s a lot of fun for the boys, too,” Hardy said. “I believe we’re going to bring it (the state championship trophy) home this year.”
The Cougars have fallen short in three straight title games, and four of their last five. Fountain wouldn’t confess to being superstitious, but the team will take a different route to Montgomery on Friday.
Usually, the team bus and caravan of supporters drive through downtown Atmore on the way to the capital city. This year, they will follow U.S. 31 all the way, with an Atmore Police Department officer and cruiser as an escort to and from the game.
“I don’t want to take anything away from anybody, but we’re going up through Flomaton this year,” Fountain said. “We want anybody who can, to come out and wish us off. We’ll be pulling out at 9:30 (a.m.).”
The Cougars and Generals will square off at 3:30 p.m., in the middle game of the AISA Super Six. The Class A championship contest will be played at noon; the AAA title game will kick off at 7 p.m.