Cougars topple Warriors

Published 9:44 am Monday, August 22, 2011

Escambia Academy defensive back Cameron McGhee makes a tackle during the Cougars’ victory over the Sparta Warriors Friday night in Evergreen.|Photo by AJ Beachy

Michael Thompson and the Escambia Academy Cougars made the most of their opportunity in their opening season game as they plowed past the Sparta Warriors 30-2 Friday night in Evergreen.

Thompson led the Cougars by completing 7-of-10 passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing the ball six times for 51 yards and another touchdown.

The Cougars (1-0, 0-0) extended their winning streak to three games over the Warriors only allowing a safety late in the game with younger players in the game.

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With a successful first game, the Cougars and their coaches came back to Canoe happy with the results on the field.

“I’m pleased,” said Cougars head football coach Heath Gibson. “Especially with that being our first game, we executed our offense and defense well, which is always a plus in the first game.”

Along with the execution by his team, the Cougars were excited to get past practice and move into their 2011 season.

The promising expectations led to intensity throughout the contest, Gibson said.

“We played with so much enthusiasm and intensity,” he said. “Our guys gave it their all in every quarter, so it was a good game overall.”

The passing game made a statement against the Warriors as Thompson completed 70 percent of his passes with two big touchdown plays.

His first came on a 22-yard toss to running back Wesley Steadham and the second on an 11-yard throw to running back Reid Bell.

Thompson also used his legs on a 20-yard touchdown run.

The play of the Cougars’ quarterback stayed with Gibson after the game.

“Michael Thompson played unbelievable,” he said. “He threw the ball extremely well and made several plays by running the ball. Wesley Steadham also did a good job along with Jaylen Henry. They really keyed in on Jaylen tonight, but our other guys really stepped up.”

Henry finished the game with 54 yards on 10 carries, and he scored on a one-yard run. Steadham had three carries for 12 yards and had 44 yards receiving to go with his touchdown.

The Cougars also debuted their new defensive scheme against the Warriors with the opportunity to see how the 3-5 set will work.

The strength of the defense was shown early as the Warriors faced trouble moving the ball.

Stopping the offensive execution of Sparta impressed Gibson with his defense.

“It worked great for it to be used in our first game,” he said. “They only made one first down in the entire first half, which was huge. They went three and out several times and that put pressure on them early.”

Defensively, the Cougars were led by Ethan Linam and Austin McGhee who each posted seven tackles in the win.

Despite the victory, the Cougars still have work to do.

Blocking and pass coverage were two issues that will be addressed, Gibson said.

“The biggest thing is working with composure,” he said. “Making sure we have our blocking assignments locked down as well as understanding our gap coverage and pass coverage. Those things need to be addressed early.

The Cougars host their first home game of the season next Friday when the Clarke Prep Gators come to Bachelor Field.

Being prepared for the No. 10-ranked team in the AISA will be important for the Cougars, Gibson said.

“We need to work hard again in practice,” he said. “We stayed pretty basic this week, but maybe we can open things up more in practice to get more options next week. If we can focus and work hard then we can compete.”

The Cougars and Gators kick off at 7 p.m. next Friday at Escambia Academy in Canoe.