A Cougar defender chases down Fort Dale's quarterback during Friday night's season opener.

Heartbreaker in Canoe

Published 6:11pm Saturday, August 25, 2012

The crowd at Bachelor Field was positively electric when Cougars fans thought the team had forced overtime, but an offside call negated the touchdown, deflated the crowd and ultimately, resulted in a loss at the hands of Fort Dale in Escambia Academy’s home opener.

Escambia Academy fought to keep the game within reach until literally the last second. With 18 seconds left and the Cougars down 21-14, quarterback Michael Thompson took the ball under center and made a completion to Winston Barron, but Barron was tackled by a swarm of Eagle defenders at the 1-yard line.

With only 2.3 seconds to go, Thompson spiked the ball, leaving roughly one second on the clock. On the ensuing play, Thompson ran a successful quarterback sneak into the end zone, only to have the play called back and the ball moved back to the six-yard line. With the final play, Thompson fielded a bad snap and was met with pressure from Fort Dale defenders. He was able to fend off a few, but was eventually tackled short of the end zone.

“At the 1-yard line, you’ve got to be able to execute,” head coach Hugh Fountain said.

The game started late because of a heavy downpour and flashes of lightning. Noah Allison’s mother was in attendance as an honorary captain and the entire team wore his jersey number, 69, on the back of their helmets. Noah was to have been a Cougar this year, transferring from Fountain’s previous school Charles Henderson.

An early fumble by Reed Bell proved to be costly. Fort Dale scored a touchdown following the turnover when quarterback Chip Taylor threw a 26-yard pass to Taylor Windham for a touchdown. The successful extra point afterward made the score 7-0.

“Penalties really hurt us in the game, and turnovers,” Fountain said.

The Cougars scored on their very next drive to make it 7-6 when Winston Barron carried the ball in from five yards out. The extra point attempt failed when John Patrick Sawyer was unable to adequately hold the snap for kicker, Tehron Stallworth.

On the next drive, the Eagles answered with a touchdown. Chase Widdon was able to find the end zone on third and goal. The extra point was good, and the score was 14-6.

Stallworth showed himself to be a dangerous threat at receiver. He energized the crowd early in the game with what appeared to be a 60-yard touchdown reception, but the play was called back due to holding. As the Cougars were able to get inside the red zone on the next drive, Stallworth pulled up short clutching his back. He tried to hang tough, but wound up coming out for good on the next defensive drive. His absence was noticeable.

“He got an injury,” Fountain said of Stallworth. “We’re not sure the extent of the injury, but he couldn’t come back in to play and that severely hurt us.”

On Fort Dale’s next drive, Ryan Taylor was found the end zone on a carry to put Fort Dale ahead by a score of 21-6. Escambia Academy failed to gain much steam on the following drive when Thompson was intercepted by Ryan Salter. The score stood at 21-6 at halftime.
Escambia Academy was able to cut the deficit to 21-14 after the defense came up with a turnover. John Patrick Sawyer showed a lot of hustle in making several plays for a loss of yardage. Eventually, when Fort Dale tried to convert a fourth down, Winston Barron intercepted Chip Taylor’s pass. Thompson didn’t waste much time in launching a pass to Winston Barron that resulted in a 40-yard touchdown. Barron ran the ball into the end zone on the two-point conversion.

In the end, the Cougars didn’t manage to come away with a win, but Fountain was impressed with his team’s determination.

“What encouraged me was that they fought their butts off in that game. We could have easily hung it up at halftime, but we didn’t. We just kind of kept fighting in the second half. I was proud of how they fought at the end,” Fountain said. “What I told them after the game was there was a lot of little things I could have had them more prepared for and I didn’t have them prepared for it. This game, this early, you don’t have the luxury of learning to get ready for the next game and I should have had them prepared for a few things and I didn’t, so I take full responsibility for that.”

EA will hit the road next week for their second of three straight regional games.

The Cougars will face Hooper Academy at 7 p.m.

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