By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Escambia County High’s football team continued to roll last Friday, September 29, notching their fifth win in 6 games with a 41-6 romp past Monroe County before a large homecoming crowd.
The Blue Devils dominated the contest offensively and defensively, despite the absence of 15 players who drew 2-game suspensions from a game-stopping, first-half altercation with Wilcox Central the previous week.
“To God be the glory,” said second-year ECHS coach Vincent Harris, whose team is off to the school’s best start in 16 years. “My guys had a little extra fire, since some of their brothers couldn’t play. That gave them some extra motivation. It feels good; everybody’s excited.”
The Atmore squad’s victory, which included a 35-0 halftime lead, was a complete one.
Sophomore quarterback Jamarian Robinson continued his record-setting pace, connecting on 4 touchdown passes on a night that saw him complete 11 of 17 aerials for 136 yards. The TD tosses gave Robinson 16 over his first 6 varsity games, just 3 less than Dakota DeSpain’s school record of 19.
“Our offense was clicking pretty well,” Harris said. “James Whatley (who averaged more than 10 yards per carry) set the tone of the game early-on, and I can’t say enough about Jamarian. He’s going to break the school record in the next couple of games.”
Lorenzo Arnold (3 receptions for 37 yards) and Tai Henderson (2 catches, 21 yards) snagged 2 scoring strikes each. E.J. Thomas, who also shined on defense, hauled in 3 passes for 36 yards.
The ground game was just as effective. Whatley carried the ball 13 times, picking up 136 yards and scoring a touchdown, giving him 511 rushing yards and 7 TDs on the season. He also caught a 28-yard pass. Markavion Dixon carried the ball 7 times for 47 yards.
Defensively, the undermanned Blue Devils harassed the Tigers quarterback all night. Thomas, Arnold and sophomore Ronald Jackson each had an interception. Thomas returned his pick 99 yards for a score.
The secondary was aided by a relentless pass rush that accounted for 8 sacks and 11 hurried passes. Michael French had 5 tackles, including 2 sacks, to lead the way, while Thomas, Exavion Bradley and Keeshan McKenzie had 3 stops each.
“Defensively, we did a great job, especially to be so short-handed,” Harris said. “Our defensive coordinator, Raymond Robinson, had a heck of a defensive game plan. We did not let their quarterback get outside all night, and our secondary did a good job of pass coverage. Michael French played extremely well, as did Markavion Dixon, Exavion Bradley and Keeshan McKenzie.”
ECHS’s 5-1 record is the best start for a Blue Devils team since 2007, when Kyle Davis was in his third year as head coach, and guarantees the first break-even season since 2019, when Scott Mason’s first team accomplished that. ECHS has also received votes for the Alabama Sports Writers Association Class 4A Top-10 poll for the first time in recent history.
Now comes a dash of reality. ECHS will still be without the suspended players when the team travels Friday night to take on region powerhouse Jackson, which was ranked fourth in the state in last week’s poll.
“They’ve got a good football team, as good as I’ve seen,” Harris said of the 4-0 Aggies, whose September 29 game with Thomasville was canceled. “They haven’t given up more than 7 points to anybody, so our offense is going to have to really show up. We’ll be a little short-handed again this week, but we will come to play.”
News photo by Ditto Gorme