Cougars hold off Jackson 24-21

Published 11:01 am Sunday, September 5, 2010

It was a tale of two halves for the Escambia Academy Cougars Friday night in their close 24-21 victory over the Jackson Academy Eagles in Canoe.

The Cougars (2-1, 1-1) played two completely different games it seemed against Jackson with the offense showing up in the first half and the defense sealed the deal in the second half.

Cougars head coach Heath Gibson said Friday’s win was much needed after falling to Clarke Prep last week.

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“This is a big-time win for us,” Gibson said. “We desperately needed a win coming off our loss last week. We had a lot of kids banged up this week.”

In the first half, the Cougars were able to score all 24 of their points with Jaylen Henry scoring all three touchdowns on runs of 17, five and 19 yards with kicker Robert Whatley adding a field goal in the second quarter.

Henry who carried the ball 17 times for 131 yards first scored in the first quarter mowing his way into the end zone on a 17-yard run to put the Cougars on top 7-0.

Two series later, Henry was able to pick up his second touchdown of the game scrambling through the Eagles’ defense from five yards out to put the Cougars on top 14-0.

Jackson found life in the second quarter as their quarterback and an Eagle receiver hooked up for an 80-yard pass and catch cutting the Cougars lead to seven.

Escambia Academy extended their lead to 14 again with Henry scooting into the end zone from 19 yards out to put the Cougars on top 21-7. Wesley Steadham helped move the ball down the field on the drive with runs of three, 10 and three yards. He finished the game with 16 yards rushing and 12 yards receiving.

Late in the second quarter, the Cougars pushed their way down the field only to be stopped by the Eagles defense forcing the Cougars to go for a field goal. Whatley nailed the kick through the uprights to give EA a 24-7 lead.

Gibson said his offense was in control for the first half.

“Our offense did a tremendous job in the first two quarters scoring 24 points,” Gibson said. “Our offensive line did an outstanding job blocking, Jaylen was running hard and Michael Thompson played a great game.”

Jackson made one more drive before halftime with another touchdown pass from their quarterback to bring the halftime score to 24-14.

After halftime, it was all about defense for the Cougars as the offense was finally stopped consistently by the Eagles defense.

Neither team could find much momentum until the Jackson quarterback found the end zone again in the third quarter, this time on the ground running in from three yards out to cut the Cougars lead to three points.

With the score 24-21, the Cougars fought an uphill battle against the Eagles and found victories by way of a goal line stand and interceptions by Clayton Dyess and Cameron McGhee late in the fourth quarter.

Gibson said his defense really stepped up when they were needed.

“Our defense did a tremendous job for us in the second half,” Gibson said. “They made important stops and kept us alive in this game. We had leaders finally step up, and it made all the difference in the world.”

The Cougars host Marengo Academy next week in Canoe.

Gibson said the biggest concern for the Cougars at this point is health.

“Our main focus is getting our guys healthy,” Gibson said. “We’ve lost Ryan Linam for the season and have several other guys banged up, so we have to focus on that.”

The Cougars and Longhorns kick off at 7 p.m. next Friday in Canoe.

Linebackers, from left, senior Will Hendrix and junior Ethan Linam take down a Jackson Academy runner Friday night at Bachelor Field. The Cougars held on to a 24-21 victory for their second win of the season.|Photo by Adam Prestridge