By PATRICK BYRD
News Sports Writer
The Escambia Academy Cougars visited unfamiliar territory for the first time in several weeks on Friday, October 7, as they travelled to Carrollton to face the Pickens Academy Pirates. This was also the Cougars’ first region game in several weeks; going into this game, the Cougars were 2-3 overall and 0-2 region.
The Cougars had a rocky start upon entering the stadium when their charter bus became stuck in a ditch and needed towing to become drivable again. Thankfully, no one was hurt, and the Cougars did not let this affect them as they stepped onto the field.
Cougar captains Ty McCants (#2), Christian Crook (#3), and Jamison McGhee (#75) met the Pirate captains at midfield before the game. The Pirate captains consisted of their 10 senior players, as this was Pickens’s Senior Night game. The Pirates won the coin toss and chose to defer to the second half.
A 40-yard pass by Jacob Lee (#1) to Devin Kelly (#5) 3 minutes into the first quarter brought the Cougars their first touchdown. Grant Sasser (#24) was put on the field as a new kicker and made the extra point, giving the Cougars a 7-0 lead.
Two minutes into the second quarter, a 50-yard run by McCants put the Cougars in prime position to score; 1 minute later, Crook capitalized on this opportunity with a 5-yard carry. Sasser’s kick was good, leaving the score at 14-0.
Pickens was forced to punt the ball after the Cougar touchdown, and Kelly used this to score after running in a 20-yard pass with 4 minutes before halftime. The kick by Sasser was good, giving the Cougars a 21-point lead over the Pirates.
The Pirates successfully completed a 3-yard pass to the end zone with 13 seconds left before halftime; their kick attempt was no good, but a roughing the kicker penalty was called against the Cougars. The Pirates took advantage of the shorter distance to complete a 2-point conversion, making the score 21-8 going into halftime.
The Pirates had a rough time with a punt 2 minutes into the third quarter, allowing the Cougars to pick up the ball at the Pirate 18-yard line. Lee used this opportunity to make a 3-yard carry for the touchdown, and a good kick by Sasser left the score at 28-8.
With 5 minutes left to go, the Pirates scored their second touchdown with a 38-yard carry. They completed a 2-point attempt, making the score 28-16.
The Pirates successfully recovered an onside kick immediately following this touchdown, allowing them to score again 2 minutes later. A 10-yard carry for a touchdown and an unsuccessful attempt for 2 made the score 28-22 at the end of the third quarter.
With 8 minutes left in the game, Kelly received a 25-yard pass from Lee for a Cougar touchdown. Sasser’s kick was once again good, making the final score 35-22, giving the Cougars their first regional win.
The Cougars gained a total of 211 yards throughout the game; 93 were passing yards by Lee to Kelly. Seventy-eight of the 118 rushing yards were gained by Crook. Defensively, Luke Bell (#9) made 3 tackles, 2 assists, and 1 tackle for loss. Nick Cain (#60) made 3 tackles, 1 assist, and a tackle for loss; and Brodie Phillips (#59) made 3 tackles and an assist.
“They ended the half with some momentum; our guys kind of came out flat, but adversity hits at different times during different games. It’s not if, it’s when,” Cougar Head Coach Gex Billups said. “The coaches did a great job preparing for the Wing-T this week; the kids paid attention and locked in all week, and I cannot give them enough credit.”
The Cougars will celebrate Senior Night this Friday on Bachelor Field as the Patrician Academy Saints travel to Canoe. This is the Cougars’ last region game and last chance to move up in their region rankings, so be sure to come out and support the team.