Devils rain on Red Raiders

Published 11:04 am Sunday, September 5, 2010

Despite a sluggish first half, the Escambia County Blue Devils cranked it up in the second half to score 28 unanswered points and claim a region win over B.C. Rain 43-15 Friday night at Herbert Barnes Stadium.

First-year head coach Mark Heaton said the defense turning it up in the second half “really opened the game up” for the Blue Devils.

“We came out flat,” Heaton said. “I think we played to their tempo, their game speed and that hurt us. We’re a little bit faster paced team and they drug around and waited too long to get lined up, so we were real sloppy the first half and we were not focused. We weren’t ready to come out and play like we were the previous week. We’ve got to do a better job of making sure our kids are ready to go.”

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The Blue Devils (2-0, 1-0) came out of the gate firing in the third quarter, scoring on the opening drive to break a 15-15 halftime tie. Senior running back Chris Smith capped off a 10-play drive as he bulled his way in from one yard out. Tyler Nero’s extra point was no good, but ECHS was back in command, 21-15.

On B.C. Rain’s ensuing drive, Blue Devils senior defensive back Tocorian Brown brought the home crowd to its feet as he picked off Omar Smith’s pass deep in Red Raiders territory and danced his way 71 yards for the score. Senior Neiko Williams added the two-point conversion to give ECHS a 29-15 advantage.

Heaton said Brown’s huge defensive play was exactly what the coaching staff preached at halftime needed to happen to change the face of the game.

“We talked to them at half time and told them let’s change the tempo, let’s change the speed of the game, and if we do that, we’ll make a couple of big plays, we’ll jump on them early and we felt like they would lay down a little bit, and that’s exactly what happened,” Heaton said. “They were tired and we were in better shape. We drove down and physically pounding them and scored and got a big pick. Tocorian did a great job, had a couple of guys out front blocking for him and that really blew the thing open. The way we responded was very, very good.”

Escambia County’s substitutes added the final two scores of the game when backup quarterback, freshman Chris Johnson, scored on a 30-yard gallop into the end zone late in the third and from one yard out late in the fourth. Nero’s extra points made it 43-15 in the Blue Devils’ favor.

Heaton said having the opportunity for his younger players to see playing time is key as the season continues, but hoped more would have been able to play Friday night.

“It’s very invaluable,” Heaton said. “I really wanted to get more guys into the game and that’s something we’ve got to work on. The big thing I noticed there was when we got some of those young kids in, they weren’t prepared and they’ve got to do a better job of paying attention in practice.”

As for the first half, B.C. Rain took advantage of a Blue Devil fumble on the first play from scrimmage on the 8-yard-line. Three plays later, Smith scored from one yard out and Nicolas Irby added the extra point to take an early 7-0 lead.

The Blue Devils answered right back on the next drive as senior quarterback Rico Stallworth capped off the drive with a 26-yard scamper for the score. Senior receiver Marshall Rolin added the two-point conversion to give ECHS a slight advantage, 8-7.

The Red Raider retook the lead on their next drive when Smith connected with Andrew Williams on a 38-yard touchdown pass. The duo connected again on the two-point conversion to go up 15-8.

Late in the second quarter, Escambia County tied the game when Stallworth scored on a 1-yard quarterback keeper around right end. Nero added the extra point to tie the game at 15.

Escambia County will take their first road trip of the season next week to Mobile to take on a strong region competitor in UMS Wright. Heaton said he believes this will be a true test for the Blue Devils as region play advances.

“One thing that’s going to help is that we’re going to play a very solid football team and that’s going to help us prepare,” Heaton said. “We took this maybe a little lightly to start out with, maybe that’s why we came out a little flat, but I don’t think we are going to have a hard time getting them prepared for this game. We’ve got to learn to do it week in and week out and not worry about who our opponent is. I’m proud of the way they came back and made this happen.”

Kickoff is at 7 p.m.

ECHS senior running back Laderrick Crenshaw comes down with a 33-yard reception from backup quarterback, freshman Chris Johnson, in the third quarter of the Blue Devils’ contest with B.C. Rain Friday night in Atmore.|Photo by Adam Prestridge