By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Jamarion Robinson passed for three touchdowns, Escambia County High’s (ECHS) gritty defensive unit scored the other, and the Blue Devils downed neighboring Northview (Fla.) 26-14 last Friday, September 1.
With the triumph, ECHS gained a degree of revenge and improved to 2-0 while preparing to travel to Satsuma and open AHSAA Class 4A, Region 1 competition this Friday, September 8.
“Northview beat us 57-14 last year, and our kids didn’t forget it,” ECHS Coach Vincent Harris said. “They felt like (Northview) ran the score up, so they came out and played hard on offense and defense.”
Robinson connected with Elijah Thomas on a 67-yard bomb with just 17 seconds gone from the first-period clock to put the Blue Devils in front. Although last year’s Florida Class 1A runners-up twice tied the contest, ECHS never trailed.
Just before the end of the period, Robinson and Division 1 prospect Lorenzo Arnold hooked up for a 53-yard score. Luis Garcia, who booted the PAT after the first TD, connected again for a 14-0 lead.
The visiting Chiefs got a breakaway run from Devin Kelly to make it 14-7 at the half, and Wyatt Scruggs broke free on a long scamper that capped off a third-period drive and tied the contest.
ECHS’s defense stiffened after that, and the Scruggs run marked the last time the lights blinked on the visitors side of the scoreboard.
With just over 4:00 left in the third period, the Blue Devils recovered a fumble deep in Northview territory, but good secondary play by the Chiefs forced a fourth-and-10 situation. Robinson coolly found Thomas in the end zone for the duo’s second TD connection of the game, and ECHS led 20-14 after Garcia’s kick was unsuccessful.
Harris praised the continuing improvement of his sophomore signal-caller.
“He’s playing pretty well,” the ECHS coach said. “He’s doing what he can do. He’s thrown 4 touchdowns in his first two games, with no interceptions. He’s taken care of the ball really well. The offensive line also did a pretty good job of protecting him.”
As the final 10 seconds of the third quarter ticked down, defensive lineman Xavier McMillian scored what would be the game’s final points.
As an unidentified ECHS teammate was sacking the Chiefs quarterback, the ball was knocked into the air. McMillian grabbed the errant aerial and sprinted 20 yards into the end zone. The PAT attempt failed, but the 26-14 lead held.
The Chiefs mounted a late rally, but the Blue Devils defenders again kept them at bay. Caliente McCants and Marrion Hooks joined McMillian as defensive leaders by also picking off a pass each.
“Our defense played really well,” Harris said after a Labor Day morning practice. “Our kids really wanted that game. They want to win; it doesn’t matter who we’re playing. We didn’t have the goal-line stands this week that we did against Cottage Hill, but they stood tall on fourth-down plays.”
Another factor was the orange-bedecked crowd that poured into Herbert Barnes Field for the game and a pregame ceremony against gun violence.
“It was an awesome crowd,” the Blue Devils coach said. “A lot of them showed up for game, and a lot of them showed up for the prayer and the balloon release. That went well.”
Harris said Friday’s contest at Satsuma — which has defeated McIntosh and Cottage Hill — would likely be a tough one, with revenge again a possible factor.
“We’ll be playing a 2-0 team, so you never know,” he cautioned. “Also, Northview beat us 57-14 last year, and we got some revenge last week. Well, we beat Satsuma 55-15 last year, so they’re going to be wanting to get their revenge on us this week. We’ll have to be aware of that.”
News photos by Ditto Gorme