Cougar battle royale in Canoe
By By Matthew Nascone
The first few games of any season can tell a coach a lot about his team and Escambia Academy head football coach Heath Gibson will find out what his Cougars are made of when they host Crenshaw Christian Academy Friday night. And great weeks of practice never hurt anybody.
"We had a great week of practice," Gibson said. "We had our best day of practice on Monday and if we keep building and improving we will be all right."
Gibson said he knows the first game is sometimes riddled with penalties, but he believes his guys are ready to play mistake-free football and begin their defense of their Alabama Independent School Association Class 2A East Region title.
The key to the game for the Cougars will be how the offensive line plays, Gibson said.
"Our biggest thing is that we need to have our offensive line gel and open up holes for our running backs," he said.
And hitting those holes will be Joe Drew, Cody Norton and Kevin Maher. Drew has only practiced a couple days in pads after straining a quad on the first day in pads. But Gibson is not worried about his senior leader.
"He will be back for us in that first game and he has looked healthy this week," Gibson said. "We will also try and get Cody Norton involved in the running game."
The last meeting of the EA Cougars and the Crenshaw Cougars was five years ago, r before Gibson was EA's head coach. They posted a 5-5 record last year and barely missed the AISA Class 1A playoffs.
Gibson said he is aware of the power game Crenshaw will probably throw at EA.
"They are going to run the power I and come off tackle at us," he said. "Our plan is to walk eight guys into the box and challenge them to pass the ball. We would rather they throw it on us than stick it to us on the ground."
Gibson said he would have his eye on Crenshaw quarterback Bryan Brasington and tailback Derek Manning, who he considers their two best athletes.
Crenshaw head coach Roland Jones said EA would be a surprise to him, as he has never seen them in action.
"I have never seen them play and they will be a challenge for us," Jones said. "And I know they will be well prepared because they have a great coach. The biggest thing for us is to be prepared and fundamentally sound. If we can do that we should have a chance."