ECHS squeaks by Neal in jamboree
By By Chandler Myers
A back-and-forth fight ensued in the jamboree game featuring the Escambia County Blue Devils and the W.S. Neal Eagles, which ECHS won 8-7.
No tempo could be set as each team did not moved the ball or was stopped short of first downs.
Head coach Kyle Davis said the game was a fight from the beginning and it was what he expected.
The Blue Devils’ defense was tested first when the Eagles’ offense took the ball to start the game.
Neal quarterback Taylor Cash completed four passes on the first drive including a 15-yard touchdown pass to receiver Jeremy Nicholson to take the lead 7-0.
On the Blue Devils’ first drive, quarterback Rico Stallworth stepped in as a leader and drove down the field.
On first and 10, Stallworth ran for one-yard, but on the next play he dropped back and threw a 45-yard bomb to receiver Jon Dean.
Stallworth finished the night going 4-for-10 with 59 yards and nine rushing attempts for 33 yards, while Dean finished the night with two receptions for 53 yards.
Dean had a defender in his face, but still managed to get his hands around the ball and pull it in to land ECHS on their opponents’ 25-yard-line.
After a short run by Denard Stephens, Stallworth incompleted a pass and then hit Dean again for eight yards to setup another first down for the Blue Devils.
The drive was stalled on the next play on a botched option play on the toss from Stallworth to Stephens.
Davis said the first drive looked good with the first pass by Stallworth, but the fumbled option should not have happened.
The Eagles picked up two long plays by way of running back Nate Sheffield who picked up 15 yards and two plays later Cash hit receiver Maurice Samuel with a 27-yard pass.
The drive stalled on fourth down when Blue Devils defensive end Nate Davis powered his way through the line and sacked Cash.
ECHS gained momentum following the big defensive play and began moving the ball.
Freshman running back Neiko Wilkson zigged-zagged his way through the holes opened by his offensive line and picked up 14 yards on third down. The next play senior running back Michael Thomas sped his way to another first down after picking up 17 yards. Blue Devil running backs finished the game with a total of 38-yards on seven carries.
Stallworth then took over and picked up 8 yard on first down, but two plays later hushed the home team’s crowd.
Lining up behind the center Stallworth called for the snap, dropped back and then headed for the sideline. He cut the corner and 40 yards later the Blue Devils had a touchdown.
Davis and his staff decided one point was not enough and elected to go for two.
The gamble worked as Thomas cut through the line and made it to the end-zone untouched and ECHS took the lead 8-7.
After the ECHS touchdown, both offenses stalled and the defensive battle began. Neal went four and out in a drive that included a sack by linebacker Darious House, who snuck through a kink in the Eagles line and took Cash to the ground.
ECHS did not fair any better on their next drive, which included a fumble that was recovered by offensive lineman Brett Wilkins and Stallworth getting sacked for a 14-yard loss the next play.
Davis said the play of the offensive line surprised him and he added they played well.
In the second quarter, Cash began leading the Eagles down the field with a five-yard pass, which was followed up by an offsides call against ECHS. The Eagles were stalled again as a host of Blue Devils made it into the backfield to sack the Neal quarterback.
Late in the game, Neal began driving down the field again with passes of 12 yards and 22 yards being completed by Cash.
With their backs against the wall, the Blue Devils’ defense stepped up and forced the Eagles to attempt a field goal, which went short and to the right.
ECHS would again go four and out and give the Eagles the ball back with time winding down.
Nicholson gained 7 yards on first down, but this was balanced out by a false start the next play. Cash then incompleted a pass and finished out his night by throwing an interception to Blue Devils defensive back Rayvon Madison. Madison covering his zone read the quarterback and broke on the ball.
The Blue Devils then took the field one last time offensively and ran the clock out for a close victory.
Davis said the game was not about winning, but about finding what needs to be corrected before the first game.
He added that he saw some good things, but also saw aspects that need to be improved.