Devils down Eagles

Published 9:27 am Monday, September 10, 2007

By By Matthew Nascone
All the naysayers were proven wrong Friday night, as the Escambia County Blue Devils defeated the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles 20-13 at Herbert Barnes Stadium.
"Every newspaper outside of Atmore had us down as the loser of this game," ECHS head coach Kyle Davis said. "They were all saying how W.S. Neal was going to win and we were sitting there thinking, 'We beat them last year, how are we the underdogs?' We took that as a personal shot and that had our defense geared up for the game."
The ECHS (2-0, 1-0 in AHSAA Class 4A Region 1 action) defense held the Blue Eagles' offense to 13 points on only 214 yards a week after Neal put 41 points on the scoreboard and gained 361 yards of offense, including 259 yards rushing from tailback Ray Nelson.
On the other hand, the Blue Devils compiled 326 yards of total offense and scored 20 points. The Devils got things rolling on their third possession of the game. Freshman quarterback Rico Stallworth connected with senior wide receiver Josh McCants for a 33-yard gain on the first play of the possession.
After one penalty on ECHS and one on Neal, Stallworth scampered 54 yards for a touchdown and senior place kicker Elliot Faircloth added the PAT for the 7-0 lead with 2:51 remaining in the first quarter.
Stallworth rushed 12 times for 102 yards and two touchdowns in the game. He also went 8-for-15 through the air with 132 yards, a touchdown and one interception.
"Rico did a great job for us out there," Davis said. "He is only a freshman and he managed the offense well out there tonight."
The Blue Devils wasted no time, scoring another touchdown on their next possession. Stallworth found senior running back Katral James on a screen pass and James sped his way to the end zone for a 78-yard touchdown reception and a 13-0 ECHS lead after a missed PAT.
Davis had nothing but good things to say about his starting tailback.
"Katral has grown so much as a person since the jamboree against Robertsdale two weeks ago," he said. "We had some words before the regular season started and we sat down and had a talk. He really responded to that and he is such a great leader out there on the field for us now."
James added 15 carries for 61 yards on the ground for ECHS.
The Blue Eagles (1-1, 0-1) were not able to get anything going on the ground or through the air and needed a little luck to knock the goose egg off the scoreboard. With 39.6 seconds to go in the first half, the Blue Eagles punted the ball and ECHS muffed the return, giving the ball back to Neal at the ECHS 25-yard line.
Junior Neal quarterback Taylor Cash did not waste any time, throwing a touchdown pass with 23.6 seconds to go in the half to cut the Devil lead to 13-7.
The Blue Devils received the ball in the second half, but could not move the ball. Senior punter James Lykes boomed the ball 50 yards to the Neal two-yard line.
"James Lykes had three or four punts that pinned Neal back deep in their own territory," Davis said. "He might not have done much on offense or defense today, but he was great on special teams."
Lykes punted the ball seven times for an average of 36.86 yards, pinning the Blue Eagles inside their own 20-yard line three times and inside the 10-yard line twice. He also recovered a fumble early in the game.
Neither team scored in the third quarter, but Neal intercepted Stallworth at the end of the quarter and pushed the ball in from the one-yard line on the first play of the fourth quarter.
A missed PAT knotted the score at 13-13 with 11:13 to play in the game.
The teams traded big blows for the remainder of the fourth quarter, and Stallworth rushed for 46 yards on the Devils scoring drive late in the fourth quarter, capping it off with a one-yard touchdown run.
"Rico had a big run to extend that late scoring drive," Davis said. "And then he punched it in."
Junior running back Jamar Williams added 31 yards rushing on four carries.
The defensive domination included six tackles and one sack from senior defensive end Jarrod Jefferson, seven tackles and two tackles for a loss from McCants, seven tackles and one tackle for a loss from sophomore defensive back Ravon Madison and five tackles from junior defensive back Norvel Walker. Junior defensive back Mark Hale recovered a fumble.
Davis had only encouraging words for his team after the game.
"This was not just a win guys," he said. "It was two in a row against Neal. Now we have to focus on next week. It has been 15 years since we have beaten Miller and let's make it 0 years after next week."
The Blue Devils travel to Brewton for the clash with the T.R. Miller Tigers (1-1, 1-0) Friday night at 7 p.m. Miller defeated Southside-Selma (0-2, 0-1) 28-6 Friday.
In other regional news, Jackson (1-1, 1-0) destroyed Monroe County (1-1, 0-1) 41-13 and Thomasville (1-1, 1-0) took down Hillcrest-Evergreen (0-2, 0-1) 49-20.

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