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Neal Eagles shut out by ECHS

Escambia County High School scored early and often Friday night against county rival W.S. Neal as the Blue Devils scored 60 on the Blue Eagles and limited the visitors to a mere 25 yards of total offense in a shutout at Herbert Barnes Stadium.

Offensively, the home team chalked up 376 yards of total offense including 351 yards on the ground and 25 through the air.

W.S. Neal head coach Kevin Jordan said depth proved to be a huge obstacle for the Blue Eagles, which became evident as early as the waning minutes of the second quarter.

“I thought we played hard early, but their depth and our lack of it hurt us,” he said. “We made some mistakes early. The second half got out of hand because they had fresh legs on the field and we did not.”

First-year ECHS head coach Mark Heaton said he was proud of his team’s performance, especially coming out of the gate.

“They did a good job,” he said. “We came out and executed in the first half. I think we had two or three miscues that could have got us up a little bit faster and out of the gate quicker, but we built on last week and we got better, and that’s what we wanted to do.”

The Blue Devils (3-1, 2-1) were forced to punt on the first drive of the game, but regained possession the next play when Tocorian Brown picked off Blue Eagles (0-4, 0-3) sophomore quarterback Dylan Godwin’s first pass. Six plays later, junior running back Demetric Henderson capped off the 35-yard drive with a two-yard run. Junior Tyler Nero’s point after was good putting the home team up early, 7-0.

Escambia County’s defense flexed it muscles on the next two Neal possessions and answered with back-to-back scores when Henderson raced in from 70 yards out and senior running back Chris Smith bulled his way in from five yards out. Both of Nero’s kicks were good putting the Blue Devils up, 21-0.

The home team botched the ensuing kick off and junior Cedric Tolbert pounced on the pigskin to regain possession. Five plays later, Henderson, who led the Blue Devils’ rushing attack with 133 yards on 12 carries, scored his last touchdown of the game on a five-yard run. Nero’s point after kick was no good, but ECHS was in command 27-0 and would remain heading into the locker room at halftime.

Heaton said his message at halftime was simple.

“We went in at halftime and said our No. 1 goal was to preserve the shutout and those guys did it,” he said. “Even when the young guys got in, they did their assignments, flew around to the football and did a great job.”

The second half was much of the same for the Blue Devils as they continued to score at will and their defense continued to limit yardage.

Senior quarterback Rico Stallworth scored on Escambia County’s first possession of the second half on a six-yard run. Nero’s kick was no good, giving the home team a 33-0 lead.

ECHS went up by 40 points later in the third quarter when Smith darted in from 16 yards out for his second touchdown of the evening. Nero added the point after to pad the Blue Devils’ lead.

In the fourth quarter, the home team managed three more scores on a three-yard run by Laderrick Crenshaw, a 17-yard scamper by Ladereis Payne and a 35-yard gallop by Tywon Dixon to give the Blue Devils a 60-0 win.

Heaton said his play selection Friday night was smaller in hopes of allowing his players to get comfortable with certain plays.

“We tried to limit what we did tonight and get our guys really well versed on some things,” Heaton said. “We’ve been having some problems up front and tonight they executed those things we put in. Next week, we will add a little bit more and just try to get more reps, so we’re a little bit stronger up front.”