Short-staffed Blue Devils knock off Cottage Hill in opener

News Staff Writer

The absence of six starters, along with heat that sidelined two others with cramps, did little to deter Escambia County High School’s (ECHS) Blue Devils, who notched a 20-3 win in their season opener at Cottage Hill last Friday, August 25.
The team’s defensive unit turned in a solid performance, and three different players scored a touchdown each to lead the way.
“Coach Raymond Robinson did a heck of a job with our defense,” said Blue Devils Coach Vincent Harris. “They came up with some nasty stops, and we had two goal-line stands. Our defense played ‘lights out,’ especially with us missing six starters. The whole unit stood tall.”
He said several players, including two who were thrust into starting roles at linebacker, really stepped up.
“Gabe Hooks had a great night (4 tackles for a loss, 1-1/2 sacks); Jalyn James had a big hit, and Cali McCants had a massive hit,” he said. “(Freshman) Tristan Young and (junior) Taylor Young stepped in at linebacker and did a great job, and our D-line did a great job of getting after their quarterback.”
ECHS got all the points it would need in the second period, when Marrion Hooks (who also had an interception) scored on a bubble pass from young quarterback Jamarian Robinson. Luis Garcia booted the PAT, and the 7-0 lead stood into the third period when Cottage Hill got a field goal to make it a 4-point game.
That was as close as it would get. E.J. Thomas blocked a punt to set up a 2-yard scoring dive by James Whatley late in the third quarter, and Lorenzo Arnold broke free on a 60-yard scoring scamper in the final period. Garcia tacked on another PAT to account for the final margin.
Harris said his sophomore signal-caller did a solid job, despite being given a rude welcome on three occasions.
“Jamarion looked solid, and he took some shots,” the ECHS coach said. “He took about three ‘welcome to high school football’ shots but he stood tall. We didn’t throw the ball a lot, but he threw the ball fair when we did.”
Next up for ECHS is Northview, Fla.’s Chiefs, who come to Atmore this Friday. Northview exploded in the second half and pounded the Blue Devils 57-14 last year on the way to a 13-1 record and a state runner-up finish. But avenging that loss is not the most important part of the game, Harris said.
“It’s a big game, not just because it’s them,” he explained. “Orange is the color for gun violence prevention. There have been so many tragedies here in Atmore lately, we want to do something to try and help heal the city.”
Harris and the team are inviting everybody to come to the team’s home opener and to wear something orange. There will be a prayer prior to kickoff, and family members of some of the community’s gun victims will be presented on the field.
“It’s time to get back to being family,” he said. “We’ve got to stick together; it’s important that we do that, and it’s time for us as a team to do our part. This is bigger than football.
“We want to grieve with the people of the city. I’d like the whole city to heal and go back to things the way they used to be. We need to put God back in Atmore — the kids, parents, everybody. I can’t say that enough.”
The ECHS coach has seen enough of what guns can do.
“I’ve lost three players to guns since I’ve been coaching; I don’t want to lose any more,” he said.