EA plays lights out

Published 2:18 pm Monday, September 5, 2005

By By Tim Cottrell
On what could only be described as an odd night of football, the Escambia Academy Cougars overcame five turnovers, a host of penalties, some high-strung nerves on both sides, and a long delay of the start of the game to outlast the Taylor Road Academy Tigers by a score of 19-2.
The game, scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. in Montgomery, did not begin until 9:15 p.m. after officials from Taylor Road were first unable to locate the switch to turn on the lights in the stadium (the game was played at a local middle school due to Taylor Road not having an on-campus stadium), and then unable to turn the lights on after finding it. A representative from Alabama Power was eventually able to bypass the apparently damaged transformer and turn on the lights. The game ended at 11:40 p.m.
The game began with the Cougar defense forcing the Tigers into a three-and-out, but Cody Norton muffed the ensuing punt, giving the Tigers the ball back at the Escambia 46. The Cougar defense held strong once, more, and when the ensuing Taylor Road punt snap sailed over the head of the Taylor Road punter, the Cougars found themselves in business on the Taylor Road 31 yard line.
It only took one play for the Cougars to score their first touchdown of the season, as senior wingback Bruce Smith took off on a 31-yard scamper to give the Cougars the lead. John Brantley added the extra point to give the Cougars a 7-0 lead with 6:39 remaining in the first quarter.
After neither team was able to get things going in their ensuing drives, the Cougars lined up to punt, and found themselves having issues with the snap. The Ethan Brooks snap went over the head of punter Cody Norton, who then kicked the ball out of the Cougar endzone to record a safety for Taylor Road. That put the score at 7-2 with 41 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
The Cougar defense held strong once more, and after a 61-yard punt return from Smith put the Cougars in business once more at the Taylor Road 11, Joe Drew punched it in two plays later on a four-yard touchdown run. The Brantley extra point was no good, making the EA lead 13-2 with 9:20 remaining in the first half.
The remainder of the half saw a series of penalties and turnovers, and both teams went to the locker room with the score still 13-2.
The third quarter saw more of the same, as a turnover and a two-yard punt put the Tigers in scoring position on two occasions. The EA defense forced turnovers on both occasions, however, with Norton picking off a pass in the end zone and Cameron McGhee recovering a fumble at the two yard line.
The Cougars finally put the game away with 8:44 remaining in the game. After taking over on their own 46, Norton took off on a run of 19 yards, and then capped it off with a 35-yard touchdown run to build the lead to 19-2. Brantley's extra point was blocked.
Taylor Road threatened once more, but a Joe Drew interception of a tipped pass with just over five minutes remaining in the game sealed the deal.
Norton, Smith, and Drew accounted for all but one of the 197 total yards for the Cougars. Norton rushed for 73 yards, Smith rushed for 62, and Drew rushed for 61. All scored one touchdown.
The game did get ugly at several points, with several personal foul calls against both teams and an unprovoked attack on Brooks by a Tiger defender prior to the snap. Cougar head coach Heath Gibson said the delays may have caused the problems.
"It being late and having to wait for the start of the game had something to do with it," Gibson said. "You don't know whether or not you're going to play and all of a sudden you're playing after 9:00 can cause a lot of emotions."
Gibson said that while the win may not have been pretty, he was happy to get one under his belt – and was especially happy with the defense.
"We've got a win under our belts," he said. "We played a little sloppy, but we lived through it. This week we were able to get by. We got a lot of key players hurt there in the third quarter. But our defense gave up two points. There were a lot of times they could have scored but our defense stopped them. You've got to be happy any time your defense only gives up two points."
One negative that Gibson did find, however, was the lack of mental discipline his players showed on a few occasions during the course of the game.
"We didn't keep our cool at times," he said. "We've got to work on that. We didn't take very good care of the football, either."
With another tough contest behind him, Gibson said the focus would shift to Sparta Academy, EA's next opponent, Monday.
"We've got to go back and get ourselves healthy," he said. "We'll work on establishing drives and continuing to do the things we're doing right. We'll be all right."
The Cougars will travel to Evergreen to take on Sparta Friday night at 7:30.

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