By By Adam Prestridge
The first and the second halves of Escambia County High School’s home opener Friday night against the Faith Academy Rams were like night and day.
In the first half, the Blue Devils (1-2, 1-1) gained 205 yards of total offense, but scored only six points to show for the offensive effort due in part to two turnovers. The ECHS offense finished off its drives in the second half and chalked up 240 yards only this time scoring 27 points.
The Blue Devils’ Head Coach Kyle Davis believes determination throughout the game was what made the difference in his team winning or losing.
“I think the biggest thing was our steadfastness,” Davis said following a Gatorade bath. “We went down 12-0 early and didn’t give up another point and scored 33 unanswered. That just says a lot about our team, the resilience of our team. I think tonight we showed how we can play; it was a great team effort. The defense made great adjustments at the half and the offense made great adjustments at the half. It was just an all-around great team effort.”
The Rams (1-2, 0-2) won the toss and opted to receive the opening kickoff. Eleven plays and 80 yards later, the visitors captured an early 6-0 as they took advantage of a flat defense, scoring on an 11-yard run by running back Jeremy Williams.
ECHS looked to answer right back with a score of their own, but on the 10th play of the drive, the Rams pounced on a fumble to regain possession ending the 55-yard drive. The Blue Devils forced a punt on the ensuing drive, but the offense gave the ball back to Faith after a three-and-out series.
Early in the second half, Williams broke loose on a 69-yard touchdown run to give the Rams a 12-0 lead, which later proved to be the team’s final score of the game.
Three drives later, with just over two minutes remaining in the half, the Blue Devils scored their first six of 33 unanswered points when junior quarterback Rico Stallworth bulled his way into the end zone from nine yards out. The two-point conversion failed, but the home team had cut Faith’s lead in half, 12-6, heading into the locker room.
Davis said several adjustments were made at the half, but said the coaching staff focused on building up their players’ confidence.
Davis added that he was unsure why his team came out so flat in the first half.
The Blue Devils came out in the second half and took the opening drive 51 yards in seven plays off the momentum of a 41-yard kick return by senior Rayvon Madison.. Running back senior Douglas Oliver capped off the drive with an 18-yard scamper into the end zone. Senior place kicker Tyler Boatwright’s extra point gave home team a 13-12 lead and they never looked back.
The Blue Devils went on to score on a 20-yard run by senior running back Tank Mitchell who fought his way into the end zone late in the third quarter and 13-yard and 8-yard runs by Stallworth, while Boatwright added two more extra points.
The Blue Devils finished the night with 446 yards of total offense, 389 yards of which came on the ground. Davis credited the players up front for making the running game as successful as it proved to be.
Stallworth led ECHS with 236 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns. He finished the night with 179 yards rushing on 23 carries and was 2 of 9 passing for 57 yards. Senior Marshall Rolin hauled in a 52-yard pass to set up the Blue Devils’ first score of the night.
Junior running back Nieko Williams was the team’s second leading rusher with 15 carries for 105 yards, while Mitchell finished with 61 yards and Oliver 43 yards.
Defensively, junior defensive lineman Montez Curry led defense with nine tackles and four sacks.
Next week, the Blue Devils take to the road again with a key region game against Spanish Fort.
Kick off is at 7 p.m.