ECHS ‘prepares’ for Miller

Published 8:23 am Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Escambia County Blue Devils defense forces a fumble by a Linden Patriots running back during last Friday’s jamboree game at ECHS.|Photo by Chandler Myers

Preparation is the focus of the Escambia County Blue Devils as they practice for their first regular season game against No. 7 T.R. Miller this Friday in Brewton.

Last week, the No. 10 Blue Devils were thumped 32-3 by the Linden Patriots in a game that lacked proper preparation, ECHS head football coach Mark Heaton said.

That loss has put things for perspective for Blue Devils coaches and players who aim to fix the issues that plagued their program.

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Starting with a strong work ethic will be the key to getting things on the right track, Heaton said.

“We just need to come prepared to work all week with a working attitude,” he said. “When we practice, our minds need to focused on what we want to accomplish this week. T.R. Miller is always going to have a well-coached, sound football team. Last week, we were unprepared, but that’s behind us. We’ve taken the problems we found and are emphasizing on those issues. People will see a much better product this week.”

A loss even in an exhibition game could damage the high morale that the Blue Devils have had through the summer.

To offset anything like that, Heaton and his coaches instruct their players on how to correct the mistakes, he said.

“We show them the film and the mistakes,” he said. “The thing they have to understand is they need to believe in what we are doing. They have to pay attention to what their position coach is trying to teach them, and if we do that then they will be a completely different team this Friday night. It’s all about discipline.”

On the field, the preparation problems were seen in several spots on offense, defense and special teams.

Preparing starts with Heaton and the Blue Devils coach is going to fix his preparation to help with the rest of the team, he said.

“I’m going to start with me first,” he said. “First, I have to make sure our special teams is organized and is where it needs to be. We looked sloppy, and that’s on me. The next part is making sure our personnel groupings are right. We had some kids suspended for some of the game, which threw things off, so we need to make sure that’s corrected this week. We also need to fix our route running and reading defensive keys. All the mistakes are fixable, and we have the chance to improve.”

As for the Blue Devils’ opponents, they have no film to work with, but the team will look back at what the Tigers did last season.

Covering the basics will be the best thing that the Blue Devils could do, Heaton said.

“T.R. Miller is consistent in what they do, which is why they are a great program,” he said. “They are going to have some wrinkles that we don’t know just like we’ll have some they don’t know. We just have to cover all of the base things that we know will see, and at the same time, we need to give several different looks defensively. All kinds of situations need to be covered. It’s going to come down to penalties and turnovers. If we cut down on those then we will compete in this game.”

Heaton uses no special tactics to prepare for coaching against another coach.

The coach he coaches against this week though is one has had respect for since high school, he said.

“I love Jamie Riggs and the tremendous job he does at the school,” he said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and the program he’s built. I have since I was in high school. I’d love to be 2-0 against him, but I don’t prepare any different for one coach than I do another. I just know when I line up and play T.R. Miller, our team needs to be disciplined.”

The Blue Devils and Tigers kick off at 7 p.m. Friday night in Brewton.