Cougars fall 49-35 to Clarke Prep in region opener Thursday

Published 11:40 pm Thursday, August 31, 2023

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Escambia Academy fell 49-35 to Clarke Prep Academy tonight in a back-and-forth region battle at Bachelor Field in Canoe.

The Cougars led 21-20 at halftime, and the Gators made some adjustments in the final 24 minutes of play, running away from it in the fourth quarter.

With the loss, EA falls to 1-2 overall, and 0-1 in AISA Class 2A, Region 2.

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“Our kids fought hard,” EA head football coach Gex Billups said. “Congrats to Clarke Prep. They’re coached well. They made some second-half adjustments we weren’t able to stop. Credit to their coaching staff. They’re very physical up front.”

Trailing 21-20 going into the third quarter, the Gators turned on their wheels, putting together a good opening drive.

Ashton Williams rushed the ball in for a score with 7:23 left, and quarterback Connor Bumpers added the 2-point conversion to give their team the lead. Some 3 minutes later, Bumpers added a 3-yard scoring rush to give CPA a lead it wouldn’t give up the rest of the game.

Gators running back Alex Hayes scored on a 2-yard scamper with 11:29 left in the fourth, and scampered in from 50 yards with more than 5 minutes to go.

Earlier in the second half, EA answered with a nice 55-yard pass from quarterback Keller Coston to Quinton Odom to tie the game at 28-all.

Down by 14 with less than 8 minutes to go in the contest, Coston hit Luke Bell on a 46-yard touchdown pass. With the successful point after try by Grant Sasser, the Cougars trailed 42-35.

Play was then stopped at 9:34 p.m. because of an injured EA player.

Senior Charlie Sasser was helped to the ground. After taking off his shoulder pads and other equipment, Sasser was given ice and water. An ambulance was called to the scene, and the Atmore Fire Department arrived first 14 minutes later. The ambulance arrived at 9:51 p.m., and Sasser was loaded into the ambulance 4 minutes later (9:55).

Players and coaches from both teams gathered in prayer, and well wishes were given to Sasser and his family.

Billups said Sasser had a full body cramp.

“He’s going to be OK,” the coach said. “Our prayers go out to him and his family. The whole EA family will be behind him.”

Odom had a 30-yard TD reception early in the first quarter, and Coston added a 56-yard scoring run late in the second. Coston found Bell for a 65-yard TD strike with 4:14 left in the first half.

Hayes found paydirt on a 12-yard run with 5:26 in the second to tie the game; and Max Anderson had a 79-yard kickoff return for a touchdown with 5:01 left in the opening half.

Bumpers found Williams on a 3-yard scoring pass with no time left in the second quarter.

EA visits Banks Academy next Fri., Sept. 8 to continue in region play.