Gators taken to brink
By By Matthew Nascone
The Escambia County Blue Devils were trailing 27-14 in the fourth quarter Friday on the road against Class 6A Satsuma High School. The Gators had the ball with just over eight minutes remaining in the game.
But the Blue Devil defense held and forced a punt. They got something better. A bad snap from center, a muffed punt attempt and a 31-yard fumble return for a touchdown by senior LaVelt Hale closed the gap to 27-20.
"That got us right back in it," ECHS head coach Kyle Davis said. "There were three minutes to go in the game, we had two timeouts left and we stopped them and called a timeout before third down and they threw the incomplete pass and the clock stopped again and we got right where we wanted to be."
But ECHS (5-5) was stopped on the first play after the punt when sophomore quarterback Michael Thomas was intercepted in the end zone. Satsuma was able to kneel on the ball for the win, but Davis said it was a well-fought game by his guys.
"The offense played well all night," he said. "We moved the ball all night and that is the offense I am accustomed to. It really hurt to lose that game last week (against Southside-Selma), but it was really good to see us bounce back this week."
The Gators (7-3) struck first on a touchdown run as their senior tailback, George Fluckum, ran it in with 3:53 showing on the clock in the first quarter of action.
Thomas evened the score at 7-7 with a 31-yard touchdown run on the Blue Devils' first possession of second quarter.
Satsuma answered back in just more than two minutes on Fluckum's second touchdown of the evening.
Fluckum added to the Gator lead right before halftime with a 40-plus yard passing touchdown to give SHS a 21-7 halftime lead.
"We came out and gave up the first score of the game, but then we came right back and tied it," Davis said. "And we have our starting quarterback (Thomas) goes out for a play and KK (Kingston Craft) goes in there. He is a ninth grader and does not get many snaps in that situation and he put it on the ground and fumbled and they get up 21-7 at the half."
The way his team responded made Davis proud.
"We very easily could have laid down, but we didn't," he said. "We were able to make some things happen and stay in the ball game in the second half. I don't think we could have played any better other than actually winning the ball game. I mean they are a 7-3 6A club, what are you going to say? We came out here and battled and I could not be any more proud of them."
Sophomore running back DeMarcus Johnson scored the second Atmore touchdown on a 10-yard scamper for the end zone with 34 seconds left in the third quarter.
Davis said he had this type of game in mind when he scheduled Satsuma for the final game of the regular season this year.
"This game showed us that we can come to compete and battle with anyone," Davis said. "If we are going to be a playoff team, we need to beat a good team like this. And we played well against them and just came up on the short end of the stick."
The Devils travel to Fayette County High School in Fayette for the opening round of the AHSAA Class 4A state playoffs Nov. 10.