By Wil Crews

Last Friday, as soggy weather conditions affected high school games across the state, the Glenwood Gators defeated the Escambia Cougars 24-22 on the road.

Both schools entered the matchup having won their season openers and looking to build on strong starts to the 2020 campaign. Two schools with apex predators as mascots, the game was highly contested and fittingly ferocious. Glenwood’s only touchdowns came on special teams and defense, but the Gators managed to steal a win in their second game of the season.

The Cougars received the ball to begin and marched straight down the field. After converting a fourth down, Escambia quarterback Landon Sims broke a long scramble run before being tackled just inside the 10-yard line. The Cougars then punched the ball into the end zone with a five-yard rush, missing the extra point and taking an early 6-0 lead. Glenwood failed to answer with their first possession on offense, but it wouldn’t take long to get on the scoreboard. Glenwood defensive back Aaron-Joshua Harris intercepted a pass on the Cougars’ second drive, taking it all the way back for a 50-yard pick-six, giving the Gators a 7-6 lead after the PAT.

The second quarter began and the Gators were threatening – this time on offense. Faced with a fourth and two at the Escambia 19-yard line, head coach Jason Gibson decided to go for it, but the Gators were thwarted, turning the ball over on downs. After a big play put the Escambia in the red zone on the next drive, the home team scored on a three-yard rushing touchdown, adding the two-point conversion to make it 14-7. Following the score, Escambia got an interception of their own and looked to stretch their lead going into the halftime break. The momentum would only last so long, as the Cougars had their punt blocked by Austin Monn of the Gators and returned for a 50-yard touchdown. Glenwood would make a successful extra point attempt and the game headed to halftime tied 14-14.

The second half did not allow fans to digest a first half defined by big plays for long. The Glenwood returner, Harris, would give the Gators a dream start to the second half, returning the kick all the way back for his second touchdown of the game; Gators lead 21-14. After a Cougar punt pinned the Gators deep against their own goal line, Escambia would force another turnover – this time a fumble – giving the Cougars great field position as they took over at the Glenwood 3-yard line. The Cougars continued their rushing dominance (279 total yards) and were able to capitalize with another rushing touchdown. Escambia would go for two in a bold call from head coach Hugh Fountain – and get it – giving the Cougars the lead once again 22-21. The Gators were resilient all game, however, and marched directly down the field in response, retaking the lead on a Garrett Hall 30-yard field goal. Glenwood would take a scant 24-22 lead into the fourth quarter.

The final quarter was a true battle of attrition, with turnovers galore and both teams forcing and recovering fumbles. Neither team really threatened, however, and with just under a minute left in regulation, the Cougars were faced with a fourth down on Glenwood’s 45-yard line.  The Glenwood defense would make their final stand, forcing a turnover on downs and allowing the Gators to run out the clock on offense. The Gators only managed 121 total yards compared to the Cougars’ 330, but timely turnover and impact plays on special teams led them to the win. The Glenwood Gators emerged victorious over the Escambia Cougars, 24-22.

The Gators failed to score offense all game and were outgained by a margin of 330 yards to 121. Tye Robichaux added to his season rushing total (284) with 108 yards rushing, but Harris was undoubtedly the player of the game with a punt block returned for a touchdown and pick-six.

The Gators move to 2-0 and play host to rivals Lee-Scott Academy (1-0) in next weeks’ matchup. Having played 36 times, the game is both programs’ longest running rivalry. The Gators hold a historic edge over the Warriors with a 21-15 all-time record. The game is scheduled for Sept. 4 at 7 p.m. CST at The Swamp.