Cougars travel to Wilcox Friday

Published 3:12 pm Monday, October 10, 2011

Escambia Academy Cougar captains, pictured, from left, Austin McGhee, Robert Whatley, Wesley Steadham and Cameron McGhee take part in the coin toss before last Friday's win.|Photo by Chandler Myers

With a playoff spot clinched, the Escambia Academy Cougars are now playing to improve in their final three games of the season.

The Cougars are currently sitting in the No. 3 spot of AISA Class AA Region 2, which will be locked up by them if they win this Friday against the Wilcox Academy Wildcats.

The Cougars (5-3, 3-2) have turned things around in the previous two weeks, picking up two dominating wins over region opponents in South Choctaw Academy and Southern Academy. In that span, the Cougars have outscored their opponents 113-13.

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On the opposite side, the Wildcats (2-5, 1-3) are on a three-game skid where they have only scored more than seven points once.

Staying the course and keeping focused will be the key for the Cougars as they prepare for this week’s match up in Camden, Escambia Academy head coach Heath Gibson said.

“We just need to go in and not play overconfident,” he said. “Our team has to continue to play hard and perform how they have in the past two weeks. Executing well and cutting down on penalties will be the big key to getting a win.”

Despite Wilcox Academy’s record, the Wildcats still have a chance at the postseason and knocking off the Cougars would put them in a spot to reach them.

The Cougars will have to stop a spread attack that will bring several different looks at them when they are playing on defense.

When EA is on offense, players will have to protect their quarterback and open holes for their running backs against a large defensive line.

The Cougars’ game plan is to stop whatever they have to on offense and play strong against a larger line, Gibson said.

“They like to run a spread,” he said. “They are extremely large up front and are talented on the offensive and defensive lines. We have to find a way to move the football against them. They run their spread really well, so we need to be prepared for anything that they might be willing to do.”

With the Cougars playing well on both sides of the ball, the focus this week will be on playing hard for 48 minutes.

Playing a physical game is important in this week’s game, Gibson said.

“Staying physical is where we are spending a majority of our time in practice,” he said. “Playing physical for four quarters is one of the problems we still have, so staying on top of that is important.”

With only three games remaining in the regular season, the Cougars will look to win their games, but also want to sharpen their skills.

Performing better on each play is important to improve before the postseason begins, Gibson said.

“Getting better at our execution,” he said. “We also have to make sure that we don’t lose focus and continue to move forward is how we need to handle our last three games.”

Following last Friday’s win over Southern Academy, the Cougars locked up a postseason berth.

Winning this week would guarantee Escambia Academy a third-place finish in the region and a match up with a familiar postseason opponent, Gibson said.

“Right now if we win this week then we’ll finish as the No. 3 seed in our region,” he said. “That would set us up against the No. 2 seed from the other region and put us up against Springwood Academy.”

The Cougars and Wildcats kick off at 7 p.m. Friday in Camden.