Opening night shutout: Cougars force five turnovers in 39-0 win

Published 11:05 am Saturday, August 21, 2010

Escambia Academy’s opening game of the season was filled with big plays and big hits as the Cougars rolled through the Sparta Academy Warriors 39-0 Friday night at Bachelor Field in Canoe.

The Cougars (1-0, 0-0) picked up big play after big play en route to their huge victory, but were also held back by five fumbles in the competition.

Cougars head coach Heath Gibson said he was pleased with the win, but saw a lot of room for improvement.

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“It’s always great when you win 39-0, but I felt like we played sloppy at times,” Gibson said. “We had several turnovers with guys putting the ball on the ground.”

The running game proved to be the key to success for EA with junior wingbacks Jaylen Henry and Wesley Steadham each topping 100 yards. Henry led the Cougars with 15 carries, while racking up 124 yards including runs of 50 and 36 yards with a touchdown. Steadham totted the ball 10 times for 115 yards and two touchdowns.

The Cougars junior fullback, Clayton Dyess, also picked up chunks of yardage pushing the ball through the offensive line as he bulldozed his way for 64 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown in the win.

Dyess opened the game with a touchdown as he plowed through the Warriors’ defenders for a four-yard score to put the Cougars up 7-0 with a Robert “Tensaw” Whatley extra point.

In the second quarter, the teams battled back-and-forth with fumbles occurring almost at will.

The Cougars’ second score of the game came on a fumble when Whatley picked up a Warriors fumble and rumbled 18 yards to the end zone to put his team up 13-0.

After another Cougars defensive stop, the offense again moved the ball strong.

They were able to put another touchdown on the board with just more than 20 seconds left in the second quarter when Henry danced his way into the end zone from 10 yards out to put the Cougars up 19-0.

Gibson said his offense had its moments, but really found its stride in the second half.

“We were able to come out running the ball strong, but we had some turnovers that hurt us,” Gibson said. “At halftime, we talked about making some adjustments, and we made sure we had the right guys pulling. It helped us come out with a little bit of a spark.”

In the second half, the Cougars and Warriors each continued to have fumbling problems with the Cougars still finding ways to score points.

In the third quarter, Steadham was able to find the end zone scoring from 18 yards out for his first touchdown, and in the fourth quarter he scored from eight yards for his second score of the night as EA continued to dominate 31-0.

On the next Sparta series, the Cougars defense put a hard hit on the Warriors’ running back causing a fumble with senior defensive end Jacob Fields pouncing on the pigskin in the end zone for a touchdown. With the successful two-point conversion by Steadham the Cougars went up 39-0.

Gibson said his defense really played strong in their first game.

“Defensively, we had a great night,” Gibson said. “They played with a lot of intensity and created chaos all over the field. I’m really proud of us on that side of the ball.”

After that final score, it was a stalemate as EA’s second team took the field to finish off the win.

Next week, the Cougars open region play on the road with a long trip Grove Hill to take on Clarke Prep.

Gibson said his team needs to be in better condition to keep up with a strong Gators team.

“We have to be ready for a strong Clarke Prep team,” Gibson said. “They work hard in the weight room, and we need to be better conditioned when we face them.”

Escambia Academy quarterback Michael Thompson eludes a Sparta Academy defender Friday night as he hustles for a first down in the third quarter. The Cougars defeated the visiting Warriors, 39-0.|Photo by Adam Prestridge