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ECHS Blue Devils face T.R. Miller Tigers Friday

Fans will pack Herbert Barnes Stadium Friday night as the Escambia  County Blue Devils open the 2010 season with a home game against their rivals, the Class 2A, No. 3-ranked T.R. Miller Tigers.

The Blue Devils will finally take the field for a regular season game under first-year head coach Mark Heaton as he goes up against an established veteran in T.R. Miller head coach Jamie Riggs.

Escambia County goes into practice this week looking to work out problems they found in their jamboree games last week against Linden and Hillcrest-Evergreen.

Blue Devils head coach Mark Heaton said for the offense, making sure each play is run properly will be their focus.

“Our biggest thing is execution,” Heaton said. “I felt like after the jamboree, our offense needed to be sharper, so we are getting them more reps in practice. I felt we had a good practice on Monday, and I feel a lot better about what we are doing on the field.”

Coming into their jamboree, Heaton and his staff felt the defensive line would be the strength of the unit, but after the jamboree that mindset has changed.

Heaton said there are changes being made to the defensive line that should help the Blue Devils against the Tigers.

“This week, we are focusing on our defensive line,” Heaton said. “They were getting up the field too much last week, so we made some personnel changes that we think will help us. We also found out who our linebackers are going to be based on their performances in the jamboree. They all kept their feet moving and always moved forward. Our secondary is strong, and with all the changes our defense should be in good shape.”

Going up against a Top 10 team such as T.R. Miller means the Blue Devils need to be aware of what they will be up against.

Heaton said he knows Riggs will do whatever he has to do to pick up a victory.

“T.R. Miller is a good team that is well coached,” Heaton said. “They’ll establish a run game then go play action. Jamie Riggs is going to pull out all the stops to get a win. On defense, they‘ll be really aggressive, and attack the ball. That’s why they are good at what they do.”

In order to have his team in the best shape possible, Heaton is going to change his practice schedule.

Heaton said the heat has hit some of his players hard with some suffering from heat exhaustion.

“We had a hot day and a long practice Monday,” Heaton said. “A couple of our guys went down from heat exhaustion, so we are making sure that each player stays hydrated during the day and in weightlifting periods. We are going to be cutting back our schedule today, and also get the kids out of pads. We just need to continue to preach to them that they need to eat breakfast and lunch, and to keep fluids inside them throughout the day.”

With a rivalry game at Herbert Barnes Stadium in the first week of the season, Heaton and the Blue Devils want the stands packed.

Heaton said he wants to see a large crowd with a lot of fans for both teams.

“I’m expecting to see a huge crowd,” Heaton said. “Hope we have a large fanbase and tremendous support.”

The Blue Devils and Tigers kick off at 7 p.m. Friday night at Herbert Barnes Stadium.

The Blue Devils of Escambia County host the T.R. Miller Tigers Friday night at 7 p.m. at Herbert Barnes Stadium. | Photo by David Snow