ECHS preps for first home playoff game in 14 years
By By Matthew Nascone
The Escambia County High School Blue Devils football team has waited 14 years, but the day is finally here again.
The Devils will host the Elmore County Panthers Friday in the first round of the AHSAA Class 4A state playoffs. The last time the Blue Devils hosted a playoff game was Nov. 12, 1993.
"It is a big accomplishment for us," ECHS head coach Kyle Davis said. "But it is one of those situations where we don't want to acknowledge because we still have a lot to do. We don't want our season to end any time soon. We want to see how far this thing can go."
Davis and the Blue Devils clinched the No. 2 seed in Region 1 in their 49-21 victory over Monroe County in Monroeville Oct. 19. The Panthers are the No. 3 seed in Region 3.
Atmore took down Citronelle in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs in 1993 under coach Melvin Middleton. Middleton is proud of the Blue Devils.
"It has been a while and I am proud of this team for bringing the playoffs back to Atmore," Middleton said. "I hope they can go deep into the playoffs."
Middleton's Devils made it to the third round of the playoffs before bowing out to Greenville High School, 12-0. ECHS hit the road in the second round for a 28-7 victory over Eufaula.
The 1993 Devils finished the season 11-4 with the loss in the third round.
For Davis, this season is a personal milestone.
"On a personal note, this has been a great year for me," he said. "I have a special place for this team because this is the first winning season I have had as a head coach."
The accomplishments of the Devils in the three years under Davis are proof of a program on the way up, and Davis believes this success will keep the momentum running.
"I think this is something we can continue because these younger kids have seen the success we had this year and they will step up and lead the young kids next year," Davis said. "That is how you build a program. The young kids see what it takes to have success and they repeat the process. Hopefully this is the season that helps us turn the corner and now we can get Atmore on the upswing. We have been down for a long time now, and maybe we can get back on the upswing."
As a reward for their success and for making the state playoffs, the ECHS booster club fed the football team steak at David's Catfish House on Sunday.
The tradition in Atmore runs deep and Davis said he hopes to bring back that tradition this year.
"You talk to people who have been here a while and they talk about the (state championship teams of) '83 and '74 and also the '93 team that hosted the playoffs," he said. "They talk about how the stadium would be packed and it was standing room only and football was football. It has been a long time coming for this city and I have been real pleased with the support we have had all year. It is always good for these kids to look up in the stands and see the community behind them cheering them on."