Tough night for seniors
By By Adam Prestridge
The Satsuma Gators played like it was their last game of the season Friday night at Herbert Barnes Stadium in Atmore.
That's because it was. The Class 6A Gators (3-7) have struggled this season against opponents in their classification, but took it to the Class 4A Escambia County Blue Devils (7-3) to the tune of 49-20 to end their season.
"Our players practiced really well this week," Satsuma head coach Jeff Kelley said following the game. "We started fast and finished strong. The drive right before the half was really big and so was the defensive stop to begin the second half. If you look back at our season, if we could have put four quarters of play together, we may have won some more ballgames. This win is a credit to our assistant coaches and seniors."
Fortunately for the Blue Devils, they will live to see another game after finishing second in their region and securing a place in the first round of the AHSAA state playoffs. ECHS will play host to Elmore County this Friday night at 7 p.m.
The Gators struck first on their first play of the second quarter when junior quarterback J.T. Baxter plowed into the end zone from one yard out. Junior place kicker Kaleb Williamson added the PAT to give the visitors a 7-0 lead.
The Blue Devils answered back quickly on their first play of the ensuing drive when freshman quarterback Rico Stallworth raced 61 yards down the field for a touchdown. Senior place kicker Elliot Faircloth added the PAT to knot the game 7-7 with 11:34 to play in the half.
Satsuma retook the lead on their next drive when junior running back Greg Brown danced his way into the end zone from 16 yards out to cap off a six-play, 62-yard drive. Williamson's PAT was true giving SHS the lead, 14-7.
The Gators' defense chomped down on the Blue Devils' next possession forcing senior running back Katral James to put the pigskin on the ground. Satsuma's Brown scooped up the fumble and dashed 37 yards into the end zone for the score. Again, Williamson's kick was good padding the visitors' lead, 21-7.
Eighth grader Nieko Williams brought Escambia County's sideline to life by returning the ensuing kickoff 81 yards and putting the home team in good position to score. The excitement was short lived though as James put the ball back on the turf and once again Brown pounced on it for the visitors.
The Blue Devils' defense held tough forcing Satsuma to punt, but on the third play from scrimmage, Stallworth threw his first of two interceptions when sophomore Broderick Brown picked off the pass for Satsuma. Four plays later, Baxter connected with sophomore Bradley Landrum on a 40-yard touchdown strike. Williamson converted the PAT successfully giving the Gators a commanding 28-7 lead at the half.
The second half mirrored the first half for both teams. Escambia County continued to commit mental errors, which resulted in turnovers and Satsuma continued to capitalize on those errors.
Stallworth fumbled the ball on the fourth play of the second half for ECHS and senior Kyle White recovered for Satsuma. Once again, the Gators' offense mustered up a seven-play, 54-yard scoring drive capped of by a four-yard run by Brown. The PAT was good giving Satsuma a 35-7 lead.
The Blue Devils' offense managed a lengthy nine-play drive, but penalties plagued the team forcing a fourth-and-20 situation. Stallworth was dropped five yards behind the line of scrimmage to force the ball over on downs.
Satsuma continued their offensive onslaught by scoring on its first play of its next possession when senior back Terrance Mitchell darted 56 yards for the score. The PAT was good giving the Gators a 42-7 lead.
Two plays later, Stallworth threw his second interception when Daniel Manning picked off the pass and ran 52 yards for the score. With the PAT, the visitors had a 49-7 lead with 14.2 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Escambia County managed to score two more touchdowns late in the game when junior backup quarterback Jamar Williams on a four-yard run and an eight-yard run. Faircloth connected on one of two kicks for a final score of 49-20.