Cougars done in

Published 12:12 am Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Cougars fell short in the first round of the AISA playoffs. Photo: Betsy Seymour/Courtesy-The Tuscaloosa News

The Escambia Academy Cougars defense fought hard, but the offense had trouble putting points on the board Friday night in their first-round playoff game against Tuscaloosa Academy.

In the end the Cougars lost to a formidable opponent; the Tuscaloosa Knights are now 11-0 this season. The Cougars finished with a winning record at 6-5 and had an overall strong showing against the AISA’s No. 2-ranked team.

The prolific Knights offense was held to 28 points, despite averaging more than 40 per game for the season.

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However, the Cougars took some time to get into a rhythm offensively. Tehron Stallworth and Michael Thompson once again shouldered most of the positive yardage for the Cougars, as they did in their last game against Macon East, but it simply wasn’t enough.

Jaevon Walton broke a gap in the middle of the defensive line to race about 68 yards for a touchdown on the very first possession of the game. Austin Menard hit the extra point attempt to put the Knights in the lead 7-0.

Even though the offense stalled, the defense showed toughness by holding the Knights without a score until late in the second quarter.
Nate Smith came up with two quarterback sacks, Winston Barron recovered a fumble, and Reid Bell managed to get off a 65-yard punt just to highlight a few of the defensive and special teams plays.

Unfortunately, following the long Bell punt, the defense gave way to the Knights powerful offense. Eventually, Clay Thomas found the end zone from 6 yards out for Tuscaloosa Academy that put the score at 14-0 just before halftime.

The Cougars came out aggressive to start the second half, as a gutsy fake punt play call on fourth down by head coach Hugh Fountain resulted in a 10 yard gain by Tehron Stallworth. The Cougars made significant progress down the field, but the drive was stopped short on a completed pass that simply didn’t yield enough yards for the first down.

The ensuing defensive drive was plagued by multiple penalties. The start of the drive involved a conference between the officials that lasted more than five minutes. Then, the Cougars were called for a defensive block below the waist. Fountain sought clarification of the call and the entire Cougars sideline was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. After the barrage of penalties, the Knights once again turned to Walton, who walked into the end zone untouched to put the score at 21-0.

On the ensuing offensive drive, Michael Thompson nearly found Winston Barron for a touchdown, but a Tuscaloosa Academy defensive back made sure Barron couldn’t catch it. As a result, he was called for pass interference. It moved the Cougars into good field position, but they couldn’t capitalize. Thompson’s next pass was intercepted by Dillon Anderson and returned for a Knights touchdown to make it 28-0.
However, the Cougars hung in the game, as they have all season long. The team immediately answered on their next drive with a 23-yard touchdown run from Michael Thompson. The two-point conversion pass from Thompson to Nate Smith was successful to cut the lead to 28-8.

The Cougars then managed to recover an onside kick. Stallworth made a perfect kick and Cameron Murphy, who also had an excellent game on defense, recovered the kick.

The positive momentum ended when Parker Farley intercepted a Thompson pass. The Cougars showed fight, driving towards the end zone on their next offensive drive, but were unable to come away with any points as the game ended.

Despite the loss, the team’s strong showing against one of the best teams in the AISA classification should be a building block for the majority of the players who will return to the team next season.