By PATRICK BYRD
News Sports Writer
The Escambia Academy Cougars stepped on the field with something to prove this week as they sought out their first win of the season against the Valiant Cross Academy Warriors of Montgomery. The Warriors, who were 1-2 at the time, had taken their only win from the Generals of Autauga Academy the week prior.
The Cougars experienced many changes in the week prior to this game when it was announced Monday via Facebook that former Head Coach Brandon Wilcox was no longer a part of the program. On Tuesday, defensive coordinator Gex Billups was named interim Head Coach, and Cassidy Murphy was named Athletic Director.
Cougar captains Christian Crook (#3), Devin Kelly (#5), and Nick Cain (#60) met with the referees and Warrior captains for the coin toss, which resulted in Escambia receiving the kick off to begin the ball game.
The kick was caught by Crook, but a quick Cougar fumble lost the ball. This led to a Warrior touchdown with 9:35 left to go. The Warriors attempted a kick, but it was blocked by Crook.
A 36-yard carry at the end of the first quarter by Jacob Lee put the Cougars in prime position to score, and Lee quickly capitalized on this opportunity first thing in the second quarter. The PAT was blocked, leaving the score 6-6.
An 88-yard carry by the Warriors led to a touchdown with 3 minutes left before the half. The kick was no good, and the score became 12-6.
A 45-yard carry by Lee brought the Cougars the last touchdown of the first half. The snap on the PAT was mishandled, leaving the score tied at 12-12 during the half.
The third quarter started off fast with a fumble recovery by Cain at the Cougar 1-yard line; however, the ball was punted back to the Warriors, leading to a touchdown on a 50-yard carry after the punt. The Warriors attempted a fake kick for 2 points, but the Cougars stopped the carrier before he could break the plane, and the score was 18-12.
Luke Bell (#9) recovered a Warrior fumble at the Warrior 42-yard line with 5 minutes left in the third quarter; this led to a touchdown by Lee early in the fourth quarter after a 7-yard carry. Lee’s kick was good, leaving the Cougars on top with the score at 19-18.
Four minutes later, the Cougars scored once again after a 32-yard pass from Lee to Samorion Clark (#22) brought them a touchdown. The kick was no good, bringing the score to 25-18.
The Cougars fought to hold the Warriors back for the rest of the game. With 3 minutes left to go, an interception by Clark put the ball in Cougar hands for a short while. A fumble recovery by Blake Hardy (#61) put the ball back in Cougar hands for the last 30 seconds of the game, with a final score of 25-18.
Offensively, the Cougars finished with 257 yards; 92 were passing yards from Lee. 129 of the 165 rushing yards were also from Lee, while Kelly and Crook obtained most of the remaining yards. Coleby Sims (#51) made five tackles, as well as 1 sack and 1 tackle for loss. Cain made 4 tackles, 3 assists, and 1 tackle for loss. Kelly had 3, and Charlie Sasser (#56) made 3 tackles and 1 assist.
“These kids, they battled a lot of adversity this week with everything that happened,” Billups said. “They showed up every day ready to work. A lot of things changed but their attitudes are what won us this football game. Our coaches have put in countless hours preparing. We couldn’t have done it without them, and I am extremely proud of these kids every day.”
The Cougars will celebrate homecoming on Bachelor Field this Friday as they take on the Hooper Academy Colts. Homecoming maids will be presented at halftime, and the homecoming queen will be crowned. Come out and show your support for the Cougars!