ECHS grounds Eagles
By By Matthew Nascone
The road was rocky in the second half, but the Escambia County Blue Devils football team prevailed Friday night 28-14 over the Alabama Christian Academy Eagles at Herbert Barnes Stadium.
"It is a lot easier to go to practice after you have won that first one," ECHS head coach Kyle Davis said. "Having the pep rally on Thursday really helped bring the community out to see us and they helped us win tonight."
It was smooth sailing for the Blue Devils (1-0) in the first half as they jumped out to a 21-0 lead. The Eagles opened the game with an onside kick in an attempt to catch the Devils off guard, but to no avail.
ECHS recovered the kick and took advantage of the field position with a quick touchdown as DeMarcus Johnson ran the ball in from the six yard line to put ECHS up 7-0. On the ensuing kickoff ACA muffed the return and the Blue Devils were again in scoring position. This time quarterback Michael Thomas hit LaVelt Hale for a seven-yard touchdown strike through the air and ECHS had a 14-0 advantage in the first five minutes of play.
The defense held onto the lead, even though allowed ACA within the red zone a few times in the first quarter.
"I couldn't ask for anything better of the defensive effort in the first half," Davis said. "They have come so far from last year and coach (Robert) Smith has worked so hard to get them in shape and he has done a tremendous job with that side of the ball."
The Blue Devil defense racked up seven sacks and Davis said the tenacity of the defense was great.
"Brandon McKenzie was dealing out some misery tonight," Davis said.
McKenzie recorded five tackles and four sacks on the night. Jarrod Jefferson and LaTrenton Bowens each had nine tackles. Jefferson had two sacks and Bowens had one sack. Skyler Lindsey and Kyle Parrish each had five tackles.
In the second quarter Big Blue tacked on six more points when Hale blocked a punt and Roddrick Gaston ran the ball into the end zone from the 15 yard line to extend Big Blue's lead to 21-0 after a good PAT by Elliot Faircloth. Faircloth was a perfect 4-for-4 on PATs.
The second half was a different story as the Blue Devils were outscored 15-7 in the half, and Davis realizes something needs to be done.
"We showed our youth in that second half," he said. "We just were not able to put them away and that is something we will work on. But offensively if we keep doing what we are doing it will click."
After the Eagles pulled with two scores at 21-8, Thomas made something of nothing in the third quarter. After dropping the snap, Thomas evaded defenders on his way to a 70-yard touchdown run to widen the score back out to 28-8.
"It was a bad snap, but Michael was still able to read the defense and he found that hole and he was off," Davis said. "He played a good game and he acted like a veteran in the end as he watched the play clock when we were winding the clock down. I think he will be the best quarterback to come through here. I know that is hard to say with a Calvin Hartley graduating last year, but this kid is special."
Thomas finished the game with 125 rushing yards on 17 carries and one touchdown. Through the air he was 7-for-10 with 72 yards and one touchdown.
The Eagles answered with a 29-yard touchdown strike of their own after turning a fourth down into a 55-yard gain on a fake punt pass. The Eagles got one more chance late in the fourth quarter, but they turned the ball over on downs and ECHS killed the rest of the clock for the 28-15 victory.
The Blue Devils travel to East Brewton to square off with the W.S. Neal Eagles next Friday and game time is set for 7 p.m. Davis said the Devils' defense will have to fly all over the field to beat Neal.
"They run a spread offense and we will have to be on the ball," he said.