Cougars suffer close loss

Published 12:39 am Saturday, October 13, 2012

The EA Cougars line up against the Clarke Prep Gators Friday night in Canoe.

It seemed the game might be over with less than eight minutes left to play and Escambia Academy trailing by 15 points to Clarke Prep, but the Cougars (4-4), (2-3) and their fans never lost faith and it almost worked. But with two minutes left to play, a sweep to the right side to running back Winston Barron failed and the Cougars ultimately fell 27-26.

Following the game, Barron showed a great deal of maturity in calling the game “a good learning experience.” Not many players would call such a tough loss a good thing, but then again, Barron isn’t most players.

Barron also admitted to his shortcomings.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“In the first half, I didn’t have my head in the game,” Barron said. “I came out more focused in the second half and tried to help my team win the game.”

While Barron accepted blame for struggles in the first half, the same could be said for the entire team. The team received a penalty for a false start, two face masking penalties, and Michael Thompson was forced to fall on the ball on a bad snap. In short, it was a half the team would rather put behind them.

There were a few positives. Reid Bell had a punt of about 50 yards on his first punt and the defense held the Gators scoreless in the first quarter.

But Clarke Prep started the second quarter on the Cougars 39-yard line and the Gators found the end zone when running back Jacob Allen ran it in from three yards out. On the ensuing two-point conversion, quarterback Hayden Nichols successfully completed his pass to Drew Larrimore to make it 8-0 in favor of the Gators.

Late in the second quarter, the Cougars defense made a few key stops to hold the Gators to a field goal. They were able to get into field goal range through successful running plays by Pope and Allen.

In the second half, J.P. Sawyer recovered a Gator fumble to put the Cougars in good field position.

Escambia Academy head coach Hugh Fountain turned to wide receiver Tehron Stallworth at running back and the plan worked. Stallworth had several big carries, including a 14-yard touchdown to put the Cougars on the scoreboard. Helton was unable to catch Stallworth’s pass on the two-point conversion, leaving the Cougars down 11-6.

Brett Gorum continued the momentum by making a big tackle on the next kickoff to put the Gators back at their own 18-yard line.
But the momentum quickly moved over to the Gators when running back Jarrette Pope ran 59 yards for a touchdown. Luke Horton ran in the two-point conversion to put Clarke Prep in the lead 19-6.

While quarterback Michael Thompson threw an interception, the Cougars were able to get the ball back quickly when Cameron Murphy recovered another Clarke Prep fumble.

The fumble led to the biggest Cougar play of the game. When the Cougars seemed to have lost all momentum, the so-called touchdown machine Winston Barron came through once again, catching a 58-yard touchdown pass from Thompson. A point-after attempt was ruined by a bad snap and a kick was never made. That put the Cougars down by a score of 19-12.

After the game, Barron said, “I was thinking ‘we can do this. We can win.’”

The defense was unable to get a stop on the next Gator offensive drive. Once again, Pope broke through the defense and managed to get a 55-yard rushing touchdown. Once again, the two-point conversion was good putting the Gators in the lead 27-12.

The Cougars didn’t give up; they only showed more resilience. Nate Smith made a key run of 36 yards to put the team at the goal line. From there, Michael Thompson managed to run the ball in from the two-yard line and even got the two-point conversion after to cut the lead to 27-20.

The Cougars defense held strong and the Gators had to punt the ball following three plays.

At that point, senior quarterback Michael Thompson showed his leadership abilities by completing four straight passes including one of 39 yards to Barron and another one for 26 yards to Barron for a touchdown. It capped off an 88-yard drive and left the team trailing by one point.

On the two-point conversion, the team turned to their playmaker, but Barron was unable to get a good push to make it into the end zone.

He was smothered by a host of Gators and the two-point conversion was unsuccessful.

The team attempted to recover an onside kick, but the Gators thwarted their efforts and came away with a 27-26 win.

Escambia Academy’s final home game will be Friday, Oct. 19 when the Cougars host Southern Academy for their Homecoming game with kickoff at 7 p.m.

The Cougars still have not guaranteed themselves a playoff spot, and will now be at the mercy of how other teams in their region perform.