Cougars fall short of state title

EA’s Jacob Lee (6) makes a touch down catch.

News Sportswriter

The Escambia Academy Cougars fell short of gaining another AISA Class 2A state title last Friday, November 19, during their sixth consecutive AISA championship game appearance at the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery.
Again, EA faced rival Autauga Academy Generals. Autauga held off the Cougars for a 52-35 state title victory.
The Generals entered into the game against EA with a 12-0 overall season record and the Cougars entered with an 11-1 overall record. The only blemish on the record came at the hands of Autauga earlier this season.
In 2017, Escambia Academy defeated the Generals for the state title, but lost against the Generals during the AISA title game in 2018 and 2019 and will now add 2021 to that list.
Autauga came out swinging early in the first quarter during last Friday’s AISA finale with a 4-yard touchdown run with 9:14 left to play in the opening quarter. After scoring the opening points of the game, the Generals hit paydirt again with 2:49 left in the first with a 67-yard touchdown pass. At the end of the first quarter, Autauga held a 12-0 advantage over the hometown team. According to EA head coach Hugh Fountain, the Cougars came out of the gate a little flat and were slow to get things started, an unusual occurrence for EA.
During the second quarter, EA started heating up and opened second quarter scoring with a Landon Sims 12-yard pass to Jacob Lee with 7:25 left in the half. The Generals however answered back on their next possession with a 1-yard push into the endzone and the Cougars trailed, 19-7. With 3:27 left to play in the half and behind, EA’s Bubba Nettles wrangled in an 80-yard Sims pass and after tacking on an extra-point kick, the Cougars trailed, 19-14. With the clock ticking down on the first half, the Generals were able to extend the score with a late 12-yard touchdown pass, and at halftime Autauga held a 26-14 advantage.
EA desperately attempted to gain ground during the start of the third quarter when Sims connected with Brady Howell on a 17-yard touchdown pass. After a successful Sims extra-point kick, EA cut Autauga’s lead, 26-21 with just over 8 minutes left to play in the third. With just under 4 minutes left in the quarter, the Generals answered back with a 35-yard touchdown pass. After a blocked extra-point kick, Autauga extended the lead to 32-21.
With the Generals still in command during the fourth quarter, Autauga found the endzone again with a 23-yard touchdown pass, extending the score to 39-21. With just over 8 minutes left in the game, Sims found Howell for a second time on a 33-yard pass for a score. After an unsuccessful 2-point conversion attempt, EA trailed, 39-27.
Following the scoring drive, EA recovered a successful onside kick, but failed short in generating a scoring drive. The failed scoring attempt contributed to the Cougars final fate as the Generals were able to convert on another scoring attempt on the following possession. With just under 5 minutes left to play in the game, Autauga broke out and scored on a 39-yard touchdown run. The score put the Generals ahead, 45-27. With the clock ticking away, Sims capitalized on a scamper for the endzone and after a successful 2-point conversion with just minutes left, EA trailed, 35-25. Despite the Cougars’ attempt to push ahead, Autauga scored again with 2:14 left to play and dashed the Cougars’ hopes for a state title.
According to Fountain, Autauga deserved the win in a hard-fought victory.
“We just come out flat and played catch-up during the course of the game,” Fountain said. “We played well, but they played better. They have a great team and just outplayed us. We had good moments throughout and our guys never gave up. They played hard and I can’t express how proud I am of them and our school.”
Despite the loss, Fountain added that being able to make it to the final game six times in a row is a huge accomplishment for any school and hints just a little to the work ethic the team has. Fountain stressed that all year round the team is constantly working hard to improve and get better and that after making the state finals for so many years in a row, the level of expectations is higher and every player acknowledges the fact that much is expected out of them from the community and school.
Fountain added that he and the entire EA family would like to thank everyone who has helped support the school this season and they look forward to next year.

News photo by Ditto Gorme