Devils dropped at home
By By Matthew Nascone
Escambia County High School had No. 3 Thomasville's number during the first half of play Friday night at Herbert Barnes Stadium in Atmore.
Unfortunately for the Blue Devils (5-2, 4-1), the Tigers (6-1, 4-0) disconnected from their first-half game plan, made some adjustments that set the home team's defense off balance and scored 37 unanswered points to run away with a 56-19 victory.
"We made some adjustments at halftime that we felt helped us," Thomasville head coach Jack Hankins Jr. said following the win, which secured the Class 4A, Region 1 championship for his team. "Escambia County has got a good football team full of athletes and we knew their athletes would be a lot of trouble."
Although Hankins would not reveal his second-half strategy, he did say his team needed to improve on simple fundamentals.
"We needed to tackle better and we needed to play better," he said.
The Tigers jumped out on top scoring on the second play of their first possession when senior running back Roya Campbell raced 50 yards for the touchdown.
Freshman Harrison Lewis added the PAT to give the visitors a 7-0 lead.
The Blue Devils answered back six plays later when senior running back Katral James bulled his way into the end zone from three yards out. The score was made possible by freshman quarterback Rico Stallworth who connected with James on a 53-yard pass on third and 23 to reset the downs. Senior placekicker Elliot Faircloth booted the PAT to tie the game 7-7.
Escambia County's defense held tough on Thomasville's ensuing drive, forcing a punt. The defensive stand opened the door for the Blue Devils' offense, which orchestrated a 10-play, 93-yard drive capped off by a six-yard plunge into the end zone by James.
Faircloth's kick sailed wide right giving the home team a 13-7 lead as time ran out in the first period. Faircloth booted a 29-yard field goal that split the uprights a play prior to James' touchdown to give the Blue Devils a 10-7 lead, but a roughing the kicker penalty erased the field goal and gave ECHS a fresh set of downs.
Thomasville regained the lead late in the second quarter when junior running back Alex Buford scored on a 17-yard run. The PAT was true giving the Tigers a 14-13 lead. The score followed a failed Escambia County fake punt deep in its own territory giving the visitors possession.
The Blue Devils answered right back two plays into their ensuing drive when James galloped into the end zone on a 56-yard run. The two-point conversion failed giving ECHS a 19-14 lead.
The Tigers managed a 10-play, 62-yard drive that ate up three minutes and scored on a touchdown pass from junior Daniel Rodgers to senior Tysean Thompson. The PAT was good to put THS up 21-19 with 37.9 second remaining in the half.
Escambia County opted to attempt to recapture the lead heading into the lock room instead of taking a knee on its next drive. The gamble backfired when Stallworth fumbled on the 35-yard line and Thomasville's Scipio Tolbert scooped it up and rumbled the fumble 36 yards for the touchdown. Lewis' kick was good giving the Tigers a 28-19 lead at the half.
The Tigers picked up right where they left off in the first half when senior Delvonte Harris returned the second half kick off 71 yards for the touchdown. The PAT was good padding Thomasville's lead, 35-19.
The Tigers scored once more late in the third quarter and twice in the fourth quarter to end all scoring.
"There were some bad coaching calls on my part," ECHS head coach Kyle Davis said. "I caused our team the first half and that is something I will have to deal with and live with."
James led the Blue Devils' ground game with 23 carries for 160 yards and three touchdowns. Stallworth was 8 of 17 for 166 yards through the air and two interceptions.
ECHS will take on Monroe County Friday night and with a win will secure home field advantage in the first round of the state playoffs.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.