ECHS holds off Tigers

Published 3:05 pm Monday, September 26, 2005

By Staff
Blue Devil defense leads way in upset win
By Adam Prestridge
Fans shouldn't ever count out Escambia County High School's football team – even when the Class 4A Blue Devils are facing a Class 6A opponent.
Friday night against archrival Baldwin County High School the Blue Devils' tenacious defense put an end to two Tiger drives with less than four minutes remaining in the game to help the home team hold on for a 21-14 win.
"It was sloppy for us, but you're going to have sloppy games," ECHS head coach Kyle Davis said. "One thing that we didn't do though, is we didn't lay down, and we've been accustomed in the past to laying down. This team is a fighting football team; they will fight you tooth and nail to the end. If the ball bounces two or three different ways were at 4-1 now instead of 2-3. You can't take anything away from Bay Minette; they're a good football team. We were just lucky enough to get more breaks tonight than they were."
Senior defensive back Darrell Stephens stepped it up in the final minutes of the game and snagged a one-handed interception and senior defensive back Larry Bowens sealed the deal with a pick off with only seconds remaining in the game to assure a win for the Blue Devils.
"Our defense kept us in the ballgame all night long," Davis said. "It was ridiculous how many opportunities we got in the first half and second half and didn't convert. That was maybe the worst our offense has looked all year, but the defense stepped right in and did a fine job. Our defense got burnt for 53 points and about 400 yards against U.M.S. and every week since then they've gotten better and have improved. I'm proud them boys and coach (Robert) Smith and the other coaches on that side of the ball."
Baldwin County managed to break Escambia County's defensive coverage early in the game when junior quarterback David Dean connected with junior receiver Carlos Clopton on a 72-yard touchdown on the Tigers' first offensive play of the game. Sophomore Joshua Colbert's point after kick was true putting the visitors on top 7-0 with 9:17 remaining in the first stanza.
The Blue Devils' offense managed to answer back early in the second quarter when Stephens, who also play running back, broke loose on a 37-yard touchdown run. Sophomore Elliot Faircloth's PAT was good tying the game, 7-7.
Escambia County captured its first lead of the game with less than four minutes to go in the first half when senior quarterback Calvin Hartley bulled his way in from four yards out to cap off a 96-yard drive that ate up four minutes of the play clock. Faircloth's kick was good putting the home team on top, 14-7.
The second half was a defensive struggle filled with turnover after turnover. Baldwin County's head coach Robert Leslie believes both are key reasons for the Tigers' loss.
"Our kids played so hard," he said. "The past three weeks defensively we've struggled and we finally put it together defensively then all of a sudden our offense struggles. We're playing 50 percent football right now and that's a hard thing to do and win. We're looking so somehow put it all together and I thought tonight was the night; we had a great week of practice on both sides of the ball."
"Turnovers had a lot to do with it and not executing like we needed to," Leslie added. "For some reason were catching cramps tonight and I don't know what that was all about. We hydrate probably more than everybody in the state. Some of our key players were not in there during the last part of the game when we needed them."
The third quarter was scoreless highlighted by two Baldwin County fumbles recovered by Escambia County and one Blue Devil fumble recovered by the Tigers.
With 6:03 remaining in the game, Baldwin County's junior tailback Marcus Cox tied the game up when he scooted into the end zone on a 22-yard run. Colbert's kick was true and fans began preparing for a possible overtime showdown.
On the Blue Devils' first play of their ensuing drive, junior receiver Kevin Green hauled in Hartley's 44-yard pass to put his team in excellent scoring position. Following a big loss on first down, Hartley connected with Chris Andrews on a 34-yard touchdown pass. Andrews managed to catch the ball with a Baldwin County defender tugging hard at his jersey and after it bounced off the same defenders shoulder pads.
"We knew they were in spread coverage all night long," Davis said. "We hadn't really taken many shots down field, but when we did take them, we completed them for good yardage. Two plays before, Calvin checked to the same play, but to the other side to Kevin Green, who made a big third down catch to keep the drive alive. Chris is an athlete, he can make plays, but don't forget the guy on the other end, Calvin Hartley, he's been our leader all year long."
A pass interference call on the play was declined giving the Blue Devils a 20-14 lead. Faircloth's kick was good ending the scoring for the evening, 21-14.
Stephens and Bowens ended Baldwin County's last two scoring threats with their interceptions.
"Escambia County's a pretty good football team," Leslie said. "The quarterback (Calvin Hartley) is one of the Top 10 players in the state and you can't overlook a guy like that. He showed that tonight, he made the difference in the game. His team rallies around him, he makes big plays."
Escambia County will host the Class 4A, seventh-ranked Thomasville Tiger next Friday at 7 p.m. in a Region 1 showdown.
"They're going to be tough, it don't get any easier for us," Davis said. "We've got one of the toughest schedules."

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