Second half mistakes lead to loss in Canoe
By By Matthew Nascone
Marengo Academy fill-in head coach Carvel Rowell had one plan in mind heading out of the locker room following halftime Friday night, wear down the Escambia Academy Cougars.
The Longhorns (3-2, 3-1) fought through numerous cramps and capitalized on several Cougar mistakes to capture a 15-12 road win, improving their region record to 3-1.
"I just told them that I hope these bigger boys would wear down," Rowell, who is filling in for head coach Jessie Little, who has been in the hospital with heart problems, said. "We did wear them down a little bit in the second half and made a couple of big plays. We had some terrible plays in the first half. We fumbled twice and gave them one touchdown on a fumble. I thought we hung in there a played a heck of ball game the second half."
EA head coach Heath Gibson said Rowell's plan worked well as Marengo was able to erase a 12-0 halftime deficit by dominating the line of scrimmage.
"They took control of the line of scrimmage and won the war in the trenches," Gibson said. "We had a hard time getting off the ball on the offensive side and they threw us off the ball on the defensive side. They blew us off the football. They are the ones that were cramping, but they won the war up front. We knew going in, it showed on film, that they are a good second-half team and they tend to play better the second half."
The Longhorns sealed the deal with a four-yard run up the gut with 4:05 remaining in the game. Quarterback Clayton Croker snuck in for a two-point conversion to seal the game for the visitors, 15-12.
EA used three timeouts and the sideline to extend the final four minutes of play and managed two possessions. The first drive stalled when EA senior quarterback Cody Norton was picked off. The second also ended when Norton was intercepted again.
Gibson believes mistakes are what cost the Cougars (2-3, 1-3) the game.
"I told our players going in that it's going to come down to penalties and turnover," Gibson said.
EA ended the night with five turnovers, three first-half fumbles and two late-game interceptions. The Cougars also committed five penalties for 25 yards, which Gibson said all came during crucial times in the game.
The absence of starting tackle, Tyler Harrison, who was sidelined with strep throat, was also a drawback for the Cougars, according to Gibson.
"He does a really good job for us and we really missed his presence," Gibson said.
Gibson added that EA already has a limited amount of linemen.
The Cougars took the lead in the first half when senior fullback Joe Drew muscled his way into the end zone from six yards out. The PAT failed, giving the home team a 6-0 lead.
Sophomore defensive tackle Nick Carlin padded EA's lead in the second quarter as he scooped up a Marengo fumble and rumbled 75 yards for the score. Again, the PAT failed and the Cougars took a 12-0 lead into the locker room at the half.
Marengo managed a score in the third quarter, while eating up valuable time off the play clock. The score cut into EA's lead, 12-7.
The Cougars' botched punt with just over eight minutes remaining in the game opened the door for the Longhorns, who gained possession at the 39-yard line.
"That was the turning point for us," Rowell said. "It got us in good scoring position and that's what we did."
Eight plays later, Marengo capped off the 39-yard scoring drive with a four-yard score followed by Croker's keeper.
"I think we had a little bit more overall speed," Rowell said. "We maybe had a little more depth than they did and they wore down. It was a good ball game. If anyone missed this game, they missed a good one."
Norton completed a 30-yard pass to sophomore wingback Jon Dean to give the home team some spark with less than 30 seconds remaining the game, but Marengo's "D" tightened up, forcing Norton to run out of bounds twice before throwing a pick.
Despite the loss, Gibson said he was proud of his team's effort, especially the defense.
"I felt like defensively we did a pretty good job," Gibson said. "We had our backs against the wall a couple of times and we kept them out of the end zone the first half."
The Cougars managed only 145 yards of total offense, 115 coming on the ground. Drew led the way with 15 carries for 50 yards and Dean finished with 35 yards on six carries. Norton completed one pass for 30 yards.
Carlin led the defense with 11 tackles and a 75-yard fumble return for a touchdown. Drew, Norton and Ethan Brooks finished with seven tackles each.
Gibson said he plans to have his team refocused Monday and ready to practice as they prepare for rival Sparta Academy.
"This coming week we're just going to back to work, get better and get after it," Gibson said. "We've got our rivalry against Sparta over there. I told the players in the locker room there are two things we can do, ' We can either drop our heads and throw in the towel' or 'We can suck it up and get the job done.' I've seen Escambia teams in the past few years I've coached them and they suck it up and get the job done and I think that's what this team is going to do also."
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. on the road.