ECHS prepares for Neal

Published 8:37 am Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Escambia County Blue Devils Devontae Walker (15) and Tyler Nero (73) tackle Troy Dixon in the Blue Devils’ loss to the UMS-Wright Bulldogs last Friday in Atmore.|AJ Beachy|The Atmore Advance

Three games into the 2011 season, the Escambia County Blue Devils are completely the opposite of where they were at this point of the 2010 season.

The Blue Devils (1-2, 1-1) opened the season with a close loss to T.R. Miller, but bounced back with a messy win against the B.C. Rain Red Raiders. Last week, they fell to the UMS-Wright Bulldogs in what looked like a complete mismatch throughout the entire game.

After such a devastating loss, the Blue Devils will look to get back on track as they prepare to take on the W.S. Neal Eagles in the hopes of securing their second region win of the season.

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W.S. Neal currently sits at 0-3 over all and 0-2 in the region. Their region losses have come against UMS-Wright (37-6) and Jackson (45-6), while their nonregion loss was to the Flomaton Hurricanes in a 47-14 rout.

As the Blue Devils prepare to face the Eagles, the team will focus on avoiding beginning region play 1-2, Escambia County Blue Devils head football coach Mark Heaton said.

“It’s a big region game,” he said. “We are 1-1 in the region, so we are looking to get our second win. W.S. Neal will be hungry for their first win. We need to put ourselves in a position to keep a winning percentage in the region. We need to be 2-1 in our region going into the second half of the season.”

Despite the 0-3 record, the Eagles bring into the game, the Blue Devils are trying not to overlook their opponent.

On the offensive side of the ball, this will be a much more improved team than Escambia County saw last season, Heaton said.

“They are so much better offensively than they were last season,” he said. “Nobody has really been able to stop them, but they have just stopped themselves with turnovers and penalties. They have moved the ball well. They are scary offensively because they do such a good job.”

Offensively, the Blue Devils have had issues putting points on the board with the exception of their first game against T.R. Miller.

With the offense facing trouble in their last two games, the Blue Devils must be prepared for the Eagles’ defense.

In watching film, the improvement of the W.S. Neal defense is evident each week, Heaton said.

“Defensively, you can tell they are young in spots, but they are getting better week-to-week,” he said. “They are an overlooked team in my opinion because they have gotten better every week. We need to play sound this week, and pray that injuries slow down for us.”

In order to come away with a win this week against the Eagles, the Blue Devils willl have to minimize their mistakes.

Bringing in a strong work ethic will be the key in this region game, Heaton said.

“Our team needs more people on the same page,” he said. “We need to get more guys doing what we need them to do. Right now, we are not executing or transferring over what we do in practice to a game situation. Once we begin doing that, we’ll be OK.”

Injuries have been a huge factor in the Blue Devils’ problems.

In the upcoming weeks, getting players healthy will be a goal for ECHS in order to compete for the playoffs, Heaton said.

“We are trying to get every player where we are healthy enough to play all over our first-team players,” he said. “We have had some injuries to our offensive line, which caused us to play some junior varsity players Friday night. We hope we get everyone back to full speed soon, but it looks like we might be without a handfull of guys again. If we get healthy then we will be a good football team again.”

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