Cougars lose heartbreaker to Fort Dale

Published 12:05 am Saturday, August 31, 2013

A promising ending quickly turned to a heartbreaking loss for Escambia Academy’s Cougars, who fell 32-26 at Fort Dale Academy in Greenville, in the opening game of the season Friday night.

EA quarterback Brett Gorum threw a 65-yard touchdown pass to Scott Brantley with 1:28 left in the game, giving the Cougars a 26-20 lead after a missed extra point.

On the ensuing drive, Fort Dale appeared to score the game-winning touchdown on a 65-yard pass, but that play was called back because of a holding penalty. However, two plays later, the Eagles still managed to tie the game when their quarterback broke away for an 80-yard touchdown run.

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Fort Dale attempted a two-point conversion, but failed, and the game remained tied 26-26 with 52 seconds remaining.

On the following kickoff, Fort Dale tried a high pooch kick to prevent the Cougars from advancing the ball. However, an EA player bobbled the kickoff and the Eagles recovered, giving them the ball on the EA 35-yard line. On the very next play, the Fort Dale quarterback completed a touchdown pass; even though the extra point was blocked, Fort Dale still took a 32-26 lead with 27 seconds left in the game.

EA advanced the next kickoff to its own 46-yard-line and attempted four straight long passes, but none were successful and the clock expired.

“They deserved to win,” said Cougars’ coach Hugh Fountain. “They outplayed us in the final minutes of the game. They wanted it more than we did at the end and I hate to say that.”

It was a tough game for Cougar fans, who saw their team rally from several deficits.

Fort Dale took an initial 7-0 lead with 11:15 left in the second quarter, and then increased their lead to 14-0 with 6:10 remaining in the first half.

EA broke onto the scoreboard late in the second quarter, when Tim Finklea scored a 10-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-9 play. Brantley added the extra point and EA trailed 14-7 with 1:01 left in the first half.

The Cougars cut into the Eagles’ lead even more in the third quarter, when Finklea broke away for a 35-yard touchdown run with 8:34 remaining. The extra point failed, cutting Fort Dale’s lead to 14-13.

Late in the third quarter, facing a second-and-6 from their own 6-yard-line, the Cougars fumbled a pitch and it was recovered in the end zone for a Fort Dale touchdown. However, EA’s Garrett Kirk blocked the kick — one of his two blocks during the night, and the Eagles led 20-13 with 1:02 left in the third quarter.

The Cougars didn’t take long to respond, as Kris Brown returned the ensuing kickoff 70 yards for a touchdown with 48 seconds left. Brantley added the extra point and the teams were tied 20-20, setting up the dramatic fourth-quarter finish.

Finklea helped lead the Cougars’ offensive effort Friday, finishing with five carries for 78 yards and two touchdowns.

Escambia Academy (0-1, 0-1 in AISA Class 3A, Region 2) will host region opponent Hooper Academy next Friday, Sept. 6.