Cougars claw out win

Published 8:53 am Wednesday, November 13, 2013

J.P. Sawyer carries the ball during EA's win over Tuscaloosa Academy. | Ditto Gorme/Submitted photo

J.P. Sawyer carries the ball during EA’s win over Tuscaloosa Academy. | Ditto Gorme/Submitted photo

Escambia Academy didn’t let history repeat itself Friday with a 41-27 win over Tuscaloosa Academy in the opening round of the Alabama Independent Schools Association Class AAA playoffs. TA had knocked the Cougars out in the first round of the 2012 playoffs.

The Cougars picked up big yards on the ground en route to the two-touchdown victory Friday, which coach Hugh Fountain called a “team effort.”

Cougar quarterback Brett Gorum scored on a 1-yard run, Tim Finklea scored on a 1-yard run and defensive lineman Mason Carraway got one of his two interceptions in the first half, which allowed Gordon Brooks to score a go-ahead touchdown to take a 21-14 lead.

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TA scored to tie the game and Brooks again found pay dirt, this time from 14 yards out, to give the Cougars a 27-21 lead.

After TA scored again to tie the game, Gorum connected with Trae Lee on a 5-yard touchdown pass and Brooks scored on a 6-yard run to put the game away.

While it gave up 27 points to the defending state champions, Fountain praised the Cougar defense for coming up big when the team needed it.

“The best way to look at the defense is when it mattered — in both halves — is when we played best,” he said.

Fountain said the defense accounted for four interceptions in the final minutes of both halves. In addition to Carraway’s two, Tim Finklea had a pick and Brooks had a pick.

On offense, the Cougars ran the ball mostly. Brooks led the team with 139 yards on 19 carries, while J.P. Sawyer added 97 yards on 10 carries. The team had 285 rushing yards total.

A turning point in the game, Fountain said, came in the third quarter when the EA offense churned out a 10-play, 7:30 drive that ate up the clock after Tuscaloosa had scored to tie the game at 27 apiece.

“It had been a back-and-forth game until then,” Fountain said.

The Cougars travel to Monroe Academy on Friday for the second round of the playoffs. The winner will advance to the AISA Class AAA State Championship in Troy.

EA lost to Monroe Academy, 50-14, in September, but the Cougars haven’t lost since. They also haven’t beaten the Volunteers since 1998, according to the Alabama High School Football Historical Society website.

Fountain said early mistakes were a factor in the September loss. In the first 30 plays of that game, EA had 13 plays that resulted in a turnover or a penalty, he said.

“We can’t go in and hurt ourselves,” he said. “We have to play our type of football. You’re not going to beat them by making mistakes.”

The Volunteers are undefeated and are probably the best team in AISA, Fountain said.

“They’ve lost two games the last two years,” Fountain said. “They’re probably going to play the style of football they’ve played all year.”