Cougars let it fly in win

Published 9:21 am Monday, November 7, 2011

Cougars wide receiver Cameron McGhee eludes a Springwood Wildcats defender in Friday night's playoff win. The Cougars will now advance to the second round of the Alabama Independant School Association playoffs next week.|Photo by Chandler Myers

Escambia Academy and junior quarterback Michael Thompson let it fly in their trip to Springwood School for the first round of the AISA state playoffs.

Thompson led the Cougars (8-4, 4-2) with six touchdowns including four through the air as Escambia Academy rolled through the Wildcats 62-42 in Lanett.

With the Wildcats putting most of their defenders near the line of scrimmage to try and stop a potent running attack, the Cougars chose to move to the passing game, which was a move that paid off.

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The move came after the Cougars scored their first two touchdowns on the ground with Wesley Steadham busting through a seam from 21 yards out and Jaylen Henry pushing in from the two.

Springwood not to be outdone kept the game tied with touchdowns after each of the Cougars scores.

“We knew they took away our run,” Escambia Academy Cougars head coach Heath Gibson said. “We had to move to the passing game and our quarterback and receivers stepped up.”

Escambia Academy continued the track meet on their next possession as Thompson threw his first touchdown pass hitting Henry on a screen pass that went 27 yards to pay dirt. Following a blocked extra point, the Cougars led 20-14.

The Wildcats took the ensuing kick off back to the Cougars’ two yard line and scored on their first play to pull ahead for their only lead of the game 21-20.

Springwood forced the Cougars to punt on their next possession, but the Wildcats could not hang on to the kick fumbling to give the Cougars better field position. Two plays later, Thompson hit receiver Cameron McGhee on a 27-yard pass to give the Cougars a 26-21 advantage. Escambia Academy went for two on the conversion with Henry pushing into the end zone to put ahead 28-21.

The teams traded touchdowns three more times in the half with Thompson scoring for EA and the teams went into halftime tied at 35.

Following halftime, the Cougars offense continued to punch the ball down the field, while the defense stepped up and held the Wildcats to one touchdown.

Escambia Academy received the ball and marched down the field in five plays with Thompson connecting with McGhee again on a 38-yard pass to put the Cougars up 42-35.

After forcing a Wildcats punt, the Cougars put together a nine-play drive with Thompson hitting McGhee for a third time. This time the pass was an eight-yard out route. With the PAT, EA extended their lead 49-35.

Springwood’s next drive was another punt, while the Cougars put another touchdown in the end zone. The score came with a five-yard run by Henry giving the Cougars 56-35 lead with the extra point.

Springwood then score their only touchdown of the second half on a 62-yard run to pull close to the Cougars 56-42 time winding down.

Thompson put one more touchdown in the end zone running in from six yards out to give the Cougars the lead 62-42, which would be the final to send them to the semifinals of the AISA playoffs.

The big second half performance gave Gibson something to be happy about, he said.

“Most proud I’ve been this year,” he said. “Went into halftime tied 35-35, and then we only gave up seven points in the second half. Our coaches and players did a great job. That’s the toughest we’ve played all year.”

Escambia Academy will now prepare for a trip to Butler where they will take on region champion Patrician Academy.

With a close loss a few weeks ago, the Cougars will look to be prepared for a fight, Gibson said.

“We played them to overtime earlier this season, so we just need to work hard next week and go play our tails off,” he said.

The Cougars and and Saints kick off at 7 p.m. next Friday.