FRIDAY: ECHS Blue Devils host W.S. Neal in region battle

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, September 5, 2007

By By Matthew Nascone
The battle for a playoff spot begins Friday night for the Escambia County Blue Devils. It may only be the second game of the season, but ECHS head coach Kyle Davis said beating W.S. Neal (1-0) Friday would be huge for the Blue Devils playoff chances.
"It is tough that we play a team like Neal for our opening region game," Davis said. "But this is one of the teams we need to beat if we want to play in the postseason. This was one of the key games that we marked on our schedule in the offseason that we needed to win."
In the past the hump the Blue Devils (1-0) had to hurdle was the confidence factor, but Davis said last year's game against Neal helped ECHS leap over that obstacle. ECHS took down Neal 26-14 on the road.
"A lot of folks thought our win against Neal was a fluke," Davis said. "But we won and now they come here to our place and we have not lost many games at home in the past couple years. Last year's win was a good confidence builder for our guys."
Davis said if the offense can pick their game up and the defense continues to dominate, his team would have a chance to repeat last year's success. The defense will have to shut down a Neal running attack that gained more than 350 yards rushing last week in a 41-21 shellacking of Daleville in Daleville.
"They have some big boys who are not afraid to knocks heads and run right through you," Davis said. "But I think we have the edge defensively. Our offense has sputtered out of the gates and we need to step it up on offense."
The amount the offense relies on the defense is something that has to change, according to Davis.
"Our mentality has been that the defense will hold the other team and with that mentality we got down 8-6 against Alabama Christian," Davis said. "Our mentality needs to be score, score, score and not worry about what the defense does. We need to have these guys prepared to play and they need to go out there and execute on Friday nights."
Both Davis and Neal head coach Blaine Hathcock realize the added emotions that come out when it is a county battle as well as a regional battle.
"Any time you play a team within the county emotions will play a part in it, but those emotions are only about 10 percent and the rest is winning a regional game to get to the playoffs," Davis said. "Do we want to beat Neal and have bragging rights for a year? Sure we do, but what we want more is that 1-0 record in regional play."
Hathcock agrees.
"I think this game is obviously big for both schools and a game between county schools always makes for a big game," Hathcock said. "I just hope we can keep it competitive because they (ECHS) have a lot of good athletes."
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Herbert Barnes Stadium.

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