Academy wins

Published 12:10 am Saturday, September 21, 2013

Escambia Academy’s Tim Finklea runs away from Sparta Academy defenders Friday night, during the Cougars’ 35-3 region win.

Escambia Academy’s Tim Finklea runs away from Sparta Academy defenders Friday night, during the Cougars’ 35-3 region win.

Big plays were the answer for Escambia Academy Friday night in a 35-3 win over rival Sparta Academy.

The Cougars (3-2, 1-2 in Class AAA, Region 2) scored four touchdowns on the ground and one on a kickoff return and the defense kept the Warriors out of the end zone.

“We did what we’ve done all season,” EA coach Hugh Fountain said. “We’re a big play team, but we also need to be able to grind it out a little bit.”
The Cougars played a sloppy first half and let the Warriors keep it close with the help of six penalties.

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“That was our Achilles heel last week,” Fountain said, referring to a 50-14 loss to Monroe Academy.  “We need to go back and look at what we’re doing on that.”

The Cougars are battling injuries on both sides of the ball as well, Fountain said. EA was without Nate Smith, J.P. Sawyer and Nolan White in the win.

The Cougars did most of their damage on the ground as two runners broke 100 yards. Gordon Brooks had 121 yards on 11 carries and Kris Brown added 126 yards on five carries. Tim Finklea ran hard as well, picking up 83 yards on 10 carries.

EA capped its first drive of the game with a long 24-yard run by Tim Finklea. That play ended a seven-play, 3:57 drive that included Kevin Gumapac passes of 9 yards and 3 yards to Scott Brantley, as well as runs by Brooks and Gumapac.

Gumapac, the Cougars’ backup quarterback, started Friday, after taking the majority of snaps in practice this week due to an injury to starter Brett Gorum.
Scott Brantley converted the extra point and EA led 7-0 with 8:03 left in the first quarter.

In the second quarter, Sparta quarterback Hunter Bolton was picked off by Brantley at the Sparta 31-yard line. Brown took the ball into the end zone on the next play and Brantley added the extra point to give EA a 14-0 lead with 5:16 left in the second quarter.

Drives for both teams started and fizzled before the half.

Sparta capitalized on its first possession of the second half, capping a 12-play, 47-yard drive with a 30-yard field goal by Ethan Roberts. The score cut the Cougar lead to 14-3.

Momentum shifted right back to EA on the next play as Finklea returned the Warriors’ kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown. Brantley’s kick was good and the Cougars led 21-3 with 5:50 left in the third quarter.

After a Warrior punt, the Cougars began the ensuing drive on the ground from their own 43. Finklea and Brooks each got a carry before Brown broke a 25-yard run to set the Cougars up at the Sparta 20-yard line. A Brown touchdown two plays later was called back for holding, but Brooks strolled in from 23 yards out to score. The extra point by Brantley was good and EA led 28-3 with 11:48 left in the fourth quarter.

The Warriors drove the ball to the Cougars’ 3-yard line before EA’s Josh Fields recovered a fumble to end the drive.

The Cougars needed four plays to reach the end zone on a 39-yard jaunt by Brown. The Brantley kick was good and EA went up 35-3, where the game ended.

The Cougars host Morgan Academy next week. Fountain told his team that could be the “game of the year” as a win would all but guarantee a playoff berth. The game is in Canoe on Friday at 7 p.m.