EA drops opener
By By RICK PATE
The Escambia Academy Cougars began the 1999 football season with high hopes built on new talent and a new coach in Mickey Cannon.
However, those hopes were dimmed slightly in Autauga Friday night as the Generals scored 32 unanswered points en route to a 32-13 season-opening victory.
The Cougars began their opening drive at their 8-yard line and appeared to have their offense in high gear as Mark Hall burst up the middle for a 9-yard gain on their first play from scrimmage. Things would quickly become more difficult as the Cougars failed to get a first down and were forced to punt deep in their own territory.
Following a 29-yard EA punt, the Autauga Generals took possession on the EA 37 and methodically moved down the field on seven consecutive rushing plays. The drive would culminate in a 1-yard plunge up the middle by quarterback Todd Treadgill.
EAs second possession would yield no better results as three Justin Beasley passes fell incomplete. Following a 19-yard EA punt, Autauga would once again start with excellent field position on their own 43.
Using a combination of a Power I and split-set backfield, the Generals utilized a healthy mixture of rushing plays and three tailbacks to march down the field and score on a 35-yard run off right tackle with just 4:40 left in the first quarter. The two-point conversation failed and Autauga held a 12-point lead.
The Cougars third offensive possession would start to show some signs of life as the offense successfully moved the ball 40 yards to the Autauga 16. The drive was highlighted by a 19-yard pass from Beasley to Josh Davis on a successful fake punt attempt. However, the Cougars would be denied as an Autauga rusher forced a fumble on a pitchout and gave the Generals possession at the EA 25.
The smaller Cougar defense would bow up and stop the vaunted Autauga offense, led by eight seniors and a much larger offensive line.
After a short 23-yard punt the Cougars were back in business and began their next offensive possession on their own 46 with plenty of time to get some points on the board before halftime. After an offside penalty against Autauga the Cougars had 1st and 5 at midfield. However, this offensive drive would come to a halt after another forced fumble.
The Cougar offense would continue to sputter in the first half as Autauga would once again use an impressive ground attack to march 70 yards in seven plays and score their third touchdown of the first half. This time the PAT was successful and the score was 19-0.
The Cougar offense regrouped during halftime under the tutelage of its coaches. However, the defense, which had spent the majority of the first half on the field, was exhausted and just could not stop the much larger and seasoned Autauga offensive line. The Cougars were losing the game at the line of scrimmage, surrendering two more long scoring drives which even further weakened their resolve.
Down 32-0, the Cougars put together an 11-play, 46-yard scoring drive to put their first points on the board with just 28 seconds left in the third quarter. The Cougars used three wide receivers to confuse the Autauga secondary as Beasley completed three passes over the middle for a combined total of 37 yards. With a fourth down and goal to go, the drive ended with Beasley hitting Davis on a 6-yard post pattern for the score. The PAT would also be good to make the score Autauga 32, EA 7.
The Cougar defense would once again stiffen and the Autauga Generals would be forced to attempt a 31-yard field goal. The attempt was unsuccessful.
The two teams traded turnovers, with EA tossing an interception and Autauga fumbling the ball back.
The Cougars began their final drive on their own 28-yard line with just 2:13 left in the game. After a 13-yard completion to Daniel Sirmon, the Cougars were set up on their own 41. With perfect pass protection from an exhausted offensive line, Beasley hit freshman Jon-Michael Beech in stride for a 59-yard TD strike. The two-point conversion would fail, making the final Autauga 32, EA 13.
The Cougars will look to even their record next week when they host area rival Grove Hill in their home opener.