Saints knock Devils back to Earth

Published 11:02 am Monday, October 1, 2007

By By Adam Prestridge
As soon as the buzzer sounded ending the fourth quarter of Escambia County High School's contest with St. Paul's Friday night at Herbert Barnes Stadium, all eyes turned to Jackson.
After all, the Aggies (2-3, 2-1) are the next region foe that stands in the way of the Blue Devils (4-1, 3-0) and a chance at hosting a first-round playoff game in November.
So how does a team bounce back from a convincing 49-14 loss to a Class 5A powerhouse like St. Paul's?
"All you've got to say is Jackson," ECHS head coach Kyle Davis said. "If we beat Jackson, that gives us a very, very good shot, a very good possibility of hosting a home playoff game. And that's what we're here to do. So if we take care of that football game and improve to 4-0 in the region and then Thomasville comes here the next week to play us for the region championship here at home on Homecoming. I don't think it sets up better than that, but first things first, we've got to take care of Jackson."
St. Paul's scored early and often, going up on Escambia County 21-0 in the first quarter. The Blue Devils struck first when senior Katral James raced into the end zone from 66 yards out for a touchdown. Senior place kicker Elliot Faircloth booted the extra point to cut into the Saints' lead, 21-7.
It didn't take long for St. Paul's to strike again, going up 28-7 at the end of the first quarter. The Aggies' defense held tough in the second quarter and their offense added two scores to pad their lead 42-7 at halftime.
Escambia County's defense stepped it up in the second half allowing only one score, while the Blue Devils' offense mustered up a lengthy drive resulting in a score with 1:05 left to play. The final score came on an 11-yard pass from freshman quarterback Ricco Stallworth to senior receiver Josh McCants in the back of the end zone. Faircloth added the point after to make the score 49-14.
Davis chalked the loss up to simply being beat by a better team.
"They're the No. 8 team in the state in Class 5A and the pre-season No. 1, they are just that much better than us," he said. "They're probably not 49-14 better than us, they are probably 35-14 better than us, but we gave them a couple of cheap touchdowns by just not playing hard-nosed football and giving up. It's easy to give up when you're getting beat on like that, but the second half, our guys came out and battled a little bit more."
As for St. Paul's head coach Mike Bates, he admired the Blue Devils' effort.
"We worked on us," Bates said. "We did some good things. We worked on our passing game some. Atmore played extremely well, they fought all night long and I give them a lot of credit. They've got a good season going and they need to pick it up and get going again. We've got a pretty good team right now and hopefully we'll keep playing well."
James paced Atmore's offense with 106 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. Stallworth connected on nine of 15 passes for 81 yards and one touchdown.
Defensively, senior defensive end Jarrod Jefferson, eighth grader Nate Davis and McCants finished the night with four tackles each. Junior defensive back Cody Sprinkle, junior linebacker Darius House and sophomore defensive back Ravon Madison all finished with three tackles apiece.
In preparation for next week's region road game against Jackson, Davis said he not only plans to prepare for a physical contest, he also plans on prepping his players mentally following his team's first loss of the season.
"I think we've got to get over this mentally," Davis said. "I think we've got to get over the fact we gave up 49 points and we've got to get over the fact we only scored 14 points, but we looked pretty good offensively. I know we didn't score 49 points, but this is probably one of the better offensive nights we had. We're going to just try to keep them up and keep them positive. We're still tied for first place in the region."
Jackson lost a heartbreaker to Class 3A No. 5 Clarke County, 22-21 in overtime Friday night. Davis believes Jackson has a target on Escambia County's jerseys following last years shellacking.
"Jackson has a very good offense," Davis said. "They are a little suspect on defense sometimes, but they are a very good team. We've just got to get ourselves right, get ourselves ready to play and get ourselves in the mind set of correcting the things that we didn't do right and picking it up in practice. We've got to have a really good practice week this week."
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. Friday night.

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