ECHS moving forward

Published 9:02 am Monday, November 7, 2011

Escambia County High School came into the 2011 football season with high expectations after a surprising trip to the quarterfinals of the AHSAA playoffs in head coach Mark Heaton’s first season in 2010.

Their plans slowly became derailed after an opening day loss to the T.R. Miller Tigers and the playoffs fell out of the question in week seven following a loss tot he Saraland Spartans.

Staring a 3-5 record in the face, the Blue Devils bounced back and played through the adversity to win their final two games and finish with a 5-5 record.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Despite the .500 record, the Blue Devils still came away from their season unhappy about not making the playoffs.

Avoiding a losing record was cause for celebration, but work still lies ahead to build on the team’s final two wins, Heaton said.

“As a whole, we are disappointed not to be in the playoffs,” he said. “I am proud of how our guys responded to the adversity they faced when we were 3-5. They came out the final two games and played hard to finish 5-5 and not with a losing record. That gives us momentum heading into the offseason where we need to improve everything about our program.”

With five losses on the record, the Blue Devils can look to any point in the season and wonder about if things had happened differently.

A turning point in football happens on any given snap and two plays in the season changed the momentum for ECHS, Heaton said.

“Saraland was the loss in our season where we had to rely on other teams to help us to make the playoffs,” he said. “You never want to have to rely on other teams to help you in that kind of a situation. Against T.R. Miller, we were a couple of plays away from opening the season with a big win, so when we look at the season, we see two or three plays that hurt our momentum and kept us out of the playoffs.”

With the season behind them, the Blue Devils are now focused on the offseason and using each week to improve for next season.

Having growth in the younger group of players that will be moving up is where Heaton said he wants to put his focus on the offseason.

“Our main focus is to get our younger guys prepared for what they will face at the varsity level,” he said. “It will be important for us to make great strides in our weight room and learning the system we have in place. That will be key to offseason.”

Aside improving strength and abilities, the Blue Devils’ coaching staff is looking for players to take on larger roles for the program.

Players becoming better leaders and taking care of the program is what will help ECHS take the next step toward becoming a strong program, Heaton said.

“They need to learn to become leaders and how to take on ownership in this program,” he said. “This is the perfect time for them to take intiative. We need them to take on those roles and use it to improve this program until next fall.”