By PATRICK BYRD
News Sports Writer
Friday night, September 2, saw the 2022 season opener for the Escambia Academy Cougars as they traveled away to battle the Clarke Prep Gators in Grove Hill, Alabama. The teams have not played since the 2019 season, in which the Cougars beat the Gators on their home turf 38-14. The Cougars have not lost to Clarke Prep since the 2012 season, when only 1 point separated the Cougars’ 26-27 home loss.
Cougar captains quarterback Jacob Lee (#1) and linebacker Nick Cain (#60), met at the 50-yard line with the referees and Gator captains for the coin toss before the game began. The Cougars won the toss and chose to defer and receive the ball in the second half. Carson Wilson, #8, kicked off the ball game, and the Gators’ offense pushed through, scoring their first touchdown with 9:03 left to go in the first quarter. The kick was no good, leaving the score 6-0.
Clarke Prep scored 1 more touchdown in the first quarter when #7 for the Gators blocked a punt from Lee while the Cougars were 4th and 6 at the Gators’ 3-yard line. The Gators successfully attempted a 2-point conversion, and the score became 14-0 for the first quarter.
Clarke Prep scored another touchdown 30 seconds into the second quarter with a 21-yard pass to #10 in the end zone and a good kick before the Cougars added some points to the scoreboard. With 8:34 left before the half, Lee scored the first Cougar touchdown with a 15-yard carry. Ty McCants, #2, was successful with his attempt for a 2-point conversion, putting the Cougars on the board at 21-8.
The Gators soon responded with a touchdown with 5:21 left with a 13-yard carry by #12 and a good kick. EA responded 25 seconds of gametime later with a 35-yard carry by Lee and an unsuccessful attempt for the 2-point conversion. Clarke Prep had the last say before halftime with a 25-yard completed pass and a 20-yard carry for a touchdown with 2:59 left. The kick was good, and the score was 35-14 going into the half.
Rain began to fall going into the third quarter. The Cougars received the ball, but didn’t score. A 45-yard carry by the Gators’ #5 brought them 6 points, followed by a good kick. Another 15-yard carry and good kick by the Gators with 2:39 left to go ended the third quarter at 49-14.
The 4th quarter saw one last kick from the Cougars. With 4:57 left in the game, Lee broke the plane with a 1-yard carry for the final Cougar touchdown. The kick was blocked, leaving the game with a Cougar loss at 49-20.
The Cougars gained a total of 230 yards. 97 of these were passing yards thrown by QB Jacob Lee; 60 of these were caught by freshman ST Clark, 30 by junior Luke Bell, and 7 by senior Cameron Ball. Lee also had the most rushing yards of the team at 146. The title for most tackles goes to Clark, Cain, Charlie Sasser, and Shawnton Riley, as all had 3 tackles each; Cain also had an assist, a sack, and 2 tackles for losses.
“We’ve obviously got a lot of things we’ve got to improve on,” Head Coach Brandon Wilcox said after the game. “We’ve got to do a better job coaching them, we’ve got to do a better job of executing what we’re being coached.”
This was Coach Wilcox’s first game as Cougar head coach.
He added, “Congratulations to Clarke Prep and Coach Carlisle, doing a great job tonight and earned their victory.”
The Cougars will be home in Canoe this Friday, September 9, to play the Banks Academy Jets. Come out and support the team for the first home game of the year.