Let the games begin

Published 4:24 pm Saturday, August 18, 2012

An Escambia County High School running back is dragged down by two T.R. Miller defenders during last year’s grudge match. The Blue Devils will begin this year’s season against the Tigers, as they do every year, in an effort to go 2-of-3 with a check in the win column.

The autumn leaves may not be falling from the trees just yet, but the excitement is in the air. Football season is right around the corner, and Escambia County has renewed optimism fueled by new head coach Lev Holly.

“I’ve had a few fans come in that want to tailgate and start it off right. Like I said, Friday night and in Alabama period, especially in the fall, there aren’t too many families that don’t look forward to a high school football game,” Holly said. “We want to make it a family atmosphere.

We want to make it a community atmosphere and want Blue Devils nation to come out and support us.”

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Escambia County lost a close away game last year to bitter rival T.R. Miller by a score of 37-31. The past few years have seen a string of likewise tight outcomes, and this year’s home opener figures to be no different. Having the support of the home crowd could certainly help the team’s cause, Holly said.

“It’s going to be a big game for our community, a big game for us and it will be my first game as the head coach. I’m just really excited about it. It could set us off in the right direction, but not only that, but being a rivalry game opening up, I think that makes it a little more special,” Holly said. “The last couple years have been really close.  It could go either way. We’re just trying to focus on mistake-free execution.”

The last time the two teams squared off at Hubert Barnes Field, Escambia County managed to secure a victory with a thrilling 35-34 finish in overtime. Because recent games have been so close, some of the finer elements of the game may play a critical result in the outcome of the final score this year. Special teams will be important, but Holly said his team puts special teams first at all times and not just for one game because they expect it to be close.

“The game is broken down into three phases: offense 33 percent, defense 33 percent and special teams is 34 percent. With special teams, we work about 45 minutes to an hour everyday on special teams,” Holly said. “We want to win the kicking game and win that phase of the game and I think that one percent, we stress to our kids, that could be the difference between a win and the difference between a loss and they’ve done a great job of picking up scheme-wise on what we want to do on special teams and buying into every time we get a chance to make a play on special teams, we need to make it. Every time we have to punt, we have to make sure we have 100 percent protection, 100 percent lane coverage, and make sure it’s a secure snap and kick.”

In Holly’s eyes, the game will come down to something even more basic than special teams: execution. His main goal is to have his team prepared to play mistake-free.

“I think we’ve got a good chance to get things started right, but we’ve got to execute,” Holly said.
Holly knows T.R. Miller head coach Jamie Riggs will have his Tigers ready to go.

“T.R. Miller, they’re a well-coached team,” Holly said. “Coach Riggs has definitely done a great job of getting them prepared.”
Junior quarterback Chris Johnson figures to be a key for the Blue Devils on offense, but Holly wants every individual player that takes the field focused and prepared to play an important role for the team.

“What we try to stress to our kids is everybody has a role. It’s like putting a pulse together. On defense, if you have ten people to the football, then the eleventh guy is not there, then that pulse is not complete. We’re trying to finish the pulse,” Holly said. “We want everybody to be in the right position every play — know your assignments, know your adjustments, and play hard. If we can do that, play mistake-free, then we’ll have a chance to win some football games.”

Escambia County will host T.R. Miller at Hebert Barnes Field on Aug. 31.