By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Vincent Harris doesn’t usually complain (at least not publicly) about the officiating in his team’s football games. But the second-year Escambia County High School coach couldn’t hold back after the Blue Devils suffered their first setback of the season, 41-26 decision to St. Michael Catholic last Friday, September 8.
“It was bad,” Harris said. “It was the worst-refereed game I’ve ever been involved in. When that kid fumbled the ball out the back of the end zone from the 3-yard line …”
The ECHS coach’s claims were validated in part by a series of second-period photographs that clearly show a Cardinals runner losing control of the ball at about the 3-yard line. The ball rolled through the end zone, and game officials ruled the play a touchdown.
“I understand they’ve got a really tough job and a lot of responsibility on their hands, but this was a rough night,” the ECHS coach said of the officiating, at the same time pointing out that ECHS had control of the game but didn’t close the deal.
“We should have done our job, should have closed the game early,” he said.” We were up 12-7 and had an opportunity, we just didn’t do a good job of finishing it off. So, a lot of the blame goes to us as coaches.”
ECHS (now 3-1 overall and 1-1 in Class 4A, Region 1 play) built its early lead on a 51-yard scoring strike from Jamarion Robinson to E.J. Thomas, who had 4 catches for 62 yards, and a 44-yard TD toss to Marrion Hooks, who hauled in 3 passes for 65 yards. Robinson completed 14 of 25 passes on the night, picking up 234 yards and 2 touchdowns (with no interceptions).
“We’re doing pretty well offensively,” Harris said. “Jamarion, being just a sophomore, is handling the pressure of being a starting quarterback as good as I’ve seen in my career. His receiving corps — Lorenzo Arnold (5 receptions for 83 yards and a 2-point conversion), Marrion Hooks, E.J. Thomas and Tai Henderson (2 catches for 34 yards) — has done a really good job.”
The Blue Devils didn’t do too badly on the ground, either. James Whatley picked up 76 yards, including a TD, on 6 carries, and Henderson ran the ball 3 times for 20 yards.
“Both of them had pretty good nights,” Harris said, noting that Robinson added a 4-yard run that gave the team a 100-yard total rushing effort.
Michael French, Exavion Bradley and Markavion Dixon led a swarming defense that for the most part played well against St. Michael. Dixon was credited with 8 tackles (including a sack that he shared with La’Jarian Riley) and went 86 yards with a picked-off pass for 6 points.
French was in on 11 tackles; Bradley took part in 8 stops; Whatley and Keeshan McKenzie contributed 6 tackles each, and Thomas was in on 5.
“Michael French has done a really good job; he and Markavion, both those guys did a really good job,” said Harris. “We had a couple of breakdowns in the secondary that hurt us, just some miscommunication, but our defense played pretty good the rest of the time.”
The Atmore squad will look to get back on the winning track this Friday when it travels to play winless region foe Wilcox Central.
“We were clicking, 3-0,” Harris said. “We’ve just got to stay hungry and do what we do. We’ll bounce back.”