Cougars look for revenge against Clarke Prep

Published 8:21 am Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Eight seconds is what Escambia Academy Cougars head football coach Heath Gibson remembers from last season’s game at Clarke Prep in Grove Hill.

The Gators put an insulting touchdown in the endzone with eight seconds left to pick up a 51-31 over the Cougars. That touchdown left an impression with Gibson.

That Clarke Prep team was full of larger and stronger players compared to the Cougars’ roster full of speedy athletes.

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This season, the Cougars (1-0, 0-0) boast another fast team, but strength was a point of interest in the off-season when looking back at 2010.

Now, the Cougars are looking to pick up their second win of the season against that almost exact same Clarke Prep team.

When looking at the game, strength is a concern that Gibson is looking at with the Gators.

“We are extremely concerned with their size and strength,” he said. “I know last season they outmanned us. Basically, we could never stop them offensively. They just lined up and used their strength to push past us. When you have a great strength program like they do, it keeps me worried. They have that same group of kids again who have hit the weights and are still big kids.”

During the summer, Gibson had his players make 32 of 37 workouts with most of his players making more than the mandatory 32.

With so much emphasis put towards becoming stronger, that work could prove to be what levels the competition of this year’s match up.

“I hope that equalized that competition out,” he said. “They do a great job hitting the weights over there. They run a Wing-T, which is power football at its best, and they will line up and try to outman us. We are going to have to set up and match them strength for strength. At the end of the first quarter, we’ll know where we stand.”

After demolishing Sparta 30-2 last week, the Cougars will continue to look for success in the team’s stalker package.

Putting the ball in Jaylen Henry’s hands will be what the Cougars will rely on to earn win No. 2, Gibson said.

“Basically, we are going to stay in our stalker package,” he said. “We really need to get the ball to Jaylen Henry and get him space. He struggled a little bit last week and got a hip pointer early in the game. If we can do that and have our offense clicking then we’ll be all right.”

In the first week of the season, Escambia Academy put their new defense on display with the scuess being seen in the number of yards Sparta gained or rather did not gain.

Holding the Warriors under zero yards will be a tough task, Gibson said.

“We’ve told our players that this will be a much better offense,” he said. “Clarke is going to be much stronger, faster and more physical than Sparta was last week. They will execute well and our team has a challenge ahead of them. Against Sparta, we held them to negative four yards rushing, so if we do that against Clarke Prep, I’ll be excited.”

If the Cougars come out of their match up with a win, things could begin to form into a run.

Notching a victory over the Gators puts EA in a strong position, Gibson said.

“A win this week puts us in great shape,” he said. “These are the defending region champs. To come out and whip them would be huge for us and put us in a great position to make a run at a region championship and the playoffs.”

The Cougars and Gators kick off at 7 p.m. Friday night in Canoe.

EA Cougar Jarrett Hadley carries the ball against the Sparta Warriors last Friday in Evergreen. The Cougars play Clarke Prep this Friday.|Photo by AJ Beachy