What rebuilding year?

Published 3:53 pm Monday, October 10, 2005

By By Tim Cottrell
Entering the 2005 season, most casual observers – and even their own coaching staff to an extent – felt the Escambia Academy Cougars were looking at a rebuilding year after losing 12 seniors from the 2004 squad which lost in the first round of the AISA playoffs.
Excluding a rough patch to begin the season, those observers have been proven wrong in a big way.
The Cougars (6-1, 6-0) welcomed the Kingwood Academy Lions (6-1, 4-1) Friday night in what many called the game of the year in AISA's Class 2A. Most expected a shootout between the Cougars high-octane Wing-T offense and the explosive home run threat wide receivers of Kingwood.
There were plenty of points all right, but they only seemed to fall on one side of the scoreboard as EA dominated Kingwood in a 36-14 shellacking that wasn't even that close.
The Cougars opened the scoring just over seven minutes into the game on a 13-yard touchdown scamper from Kevin Maher. John Brantley's extra point attempt was no good, giving EA a 6-0 lead with 4:40 to go in the opening frame.
After holding off the Kingwood offense again, the Cougars marched down the field, aided by a 31 yard pass from Cody Norton to Jeffrey Taylor to the one yard line. Joe Drew then scored the first of four touchdowns on a one-yard dive. After he added the two-point conversion run, the Cougars had built a 14-0 lead with 7:44 remaining in the first half.
The quick-strike Lion offense finally made an appearance following the Cougar score, marching down the field in under two minutes and scoring on a five yard quarterback sneak into the end zone. The PAT cut the Cougar lead in half with 5:01 remaining in the half.
The Cougars threatened to score once again but turned the ball over on downs just before halftime.
EA then returned to the field and picked up right where they left off – handing the ball to Joe Drew. They took the opening kickoff and marched down the field in just over four minutes before scoring on a five-yard Drew run. Kevin Maher added the two point conversion to give the Cougars a 22-7 lead.
Things would only get worse for Kingwood, as their offense stalled once again, allowing the Cougar offense back onto the field – where they chewed up more clock before scoring on a seven-yard touchdown run from Drew. He then added the two-point conversion to push the lead to 30-7 with 3:39 remaining in the third quarter.
Drew would score one more time on a one yard run with 4:40 remaining in the game to give the Cougars an insurmountable 36-7 lead.
Kingwood would score a garbage-time TD to put the final margin at 36-14.
Drew would finish with a whopping 47 carries for 285 yards and four touchdowns on the night. Kevin Maher would carry the ball four times for 36 yards and a touchdown; Bruce Smith added nine carries for 47 yards; and John Brantley contributed 26 yards on four carries as the Cougars totaled 407 yards rushing on 68 carries and 438 yards of total offense.
Cougar head coach Heath Gibson gave all the credit to his players for the remarkable results this season.
"The biggest thing has been the work ethic of this team," Gibson said. "They've taken on every single challenge. There's no limit to what this team can do."
A major concern going into the game was how the Cougar secondary – which features two eighth-graders – would handle the tall receivers from Kingwood. They did that and more, and Gibson credited great preparation from his team and from defensive coordinator Jason Barnett.
"Defensively we just wanted to confuse them," Gibson said. "Coach Barnett did a great job. We gave them a lot of looks and tried to keep pressure on the quarterback. The biggest thing we wanted to do was control the clock and keep them off the field, and we were able to do that."
Gibson also gave much of the credit for Joe Drew's big night to the offensive line.
"That's just an unbelievable compliment to our offensive line," Gibson said. "When Joe Drew carries the ball that many times and gets that many yards, you're doing something right."
The Cougars will travel to Selma to face Meadowview Academy Friday night at 7:30 p.m.

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