Playoff bound

Published 7:35 pm Saturday, October 10, 2009

By By Adam Prestridge
A fourth quarter downpour did not rain on Escambia Academy’s homecoming as the Cougars (5-3, 4-1) outlasted the Clarke Prep Gators, 30-24, securing the third seed in the Class 2A, Region 2 AISA state playoffs.
EA Head Coach Heath Gibson said his team’s desire to win is what made the difference in coming out on top.
The Cougars’ speed proved to be the deciding factor in the home team’s win with senior running back Jon Dean and sophomore running back Jaylen Henry breaking off big runs to lead the team’s running attack, which chalked up 255 yards.
Dean led the Cougars’ charge with 113 yards on 14 carries, a touchdown and a pair of two-point conversions. Henry had 90 yards on five touches and scored twice.
Preparing for the contest against Clarke Prep, Gibson knew team speed and a few big plays on defense would play a big factor.
The Gators struck first late in the first quarter on a 5-yard run. The two-point conversion gave the visitors an early 8-0 lead. That lead was short lived as Henry raced down the home sideline 78 yards for the touchdown on the first play of Escambia Academy’s ensuing drive. Dean added the two-point conversion to knot the game, 8-8.
The Cougars’ defense flexed its muscles with a big stop on a fourth-and-four play from the 4-yard-line. The offense took control at its own 1-yard line, but was unable to gain any positive yardage. A special teams mistake gave Clarke Prep a 10-8 lead when an EA punt attempt sailed over the kickers head and out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
Escambia Academy’s defense made another big stop on Clarke Prep’s ensuing drive and its offense made it count on the next drive when Dean darted down the field 54 yards for the touchdown. The two-point conversion failed, but the home team took a 14-10 advantage into the locker room at the half.
Gibson said he made some adjustments at the half to help in stopping the Gators’ running attack, which had been successful in the first two quarters.
The Gators wasted no time in the second half, scoring on its first possession on a 27-yard run. The two-point conversion failed, but the visitors had regained the lead, 16-14.
The Cougars were able to score on their next two drives to extend their lead to 30-16. Henry scored the first touchdown from 3 yards out and Dean added the two-point conversion. The second touchdown came early in the fourth quarter when Cowboy McGhee bulled his way into the end zone from 1 yard out. Cameron McGhee added the two-point conversion.
Clarke Prep managed a score with 4:03 left in the game on a 10-yard run and a two-point conversion to inch to within six points, but was not able to capitalize on a late possession as the Cougars’ defense held strong to secure the win.
Escambia Academy ended the night with 262 yards of total offense.
Next week the Cougars play host Meadowview in another region battle. Gibson said his team would need to come back to practice Monday focused and ready to work for an even better spot in the playoffs.

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