Football coaches will tell you that Special Teams play will spell the difference between a win and a loss. For the Gators, no truer words were spoken on Sept. 28 as Glenwood scored all of its points on special teams and defense in a 24-22 win over AISA fourth-ranked Escambia Academy’s Cougars.
That gave Glenwood two straight wins to open the 2020 campaign over the No. 2 and 4 teams in the state. Now the Gators come home on Sept. 4 and must meet arch rival Lee-Scott in the region 1-AAA opener for both teams.
The two regions are re-aligned and now Glenwood faces Lee-Scott, Pike Liberal Arts, Valiant Cross, and Hooper, Success Unlimited is also in the region but is not competing in football in 2020.
“I have been here long enough that I know when Lee-Scott and Glenwood play one another, records go out the window,” Glenwood head football coach Jason Gibson said.
Gibson had nothing but praise for his players and coaches on special teams against Escambia as they scored, or set up, all 24 Gator points.
“Escambia dominated the line of scrimmage on offense and ran three plays to our one in the game, but our guys didn’t quit and refused to lose,” Gibson said. “The effort was there and showed.”
The Gator scores were on an interception, a blocked punt return, a field goal, and a kickoff return. The Cougars had 330 yards of total offense, 16 first downs and ran 70 plays to Glenwood’s 31 and still lost the see-saw battle.
“A win like this builds character,” Gibson reported. “I did not know how the guys would respond after such an emotional win over Bessemer the week before and we only had the one week to prepare and not two weeks like we did the opener.”
The Gators had two momentum swings in the game that made the difference in the contest. After falling behind 14-7 late in the first half, Austin Monn picked up a blocked punt and raced 55 yards for a Glenwood touchdown, and placekicker Garrett Hall hit the PAT to knot the score, 14-14 at intermission.
Monn is the younger brother of Glenwood graduate Daryl Monn, who scored two rushing touchdowns in the 2019 AISA title game against Bessemer. AJ Harris then took the ball in the first minute of play in the third period and ran the kick back 60 yards and a 21-14 Glenwood advantage.
“What can I say?” Gibson said. “That’s a 14-point swing in our favor right there and put our nose out front.”
Harris, who plays on offense, defense and special teams, scored the first Gator touchdown on a 45-yard interception return in the first half.
“He’s a play maker and we need to get him more touches, and he is only a sophomore, “Gibson pointed out.
Harris also starred the week before against Bessemer as he ran a jet sweep for a five-yard TD and had an 80-yard kickoff return that set another Gator score against the Rebels. The Cougars did not let up as halfback Tiquan Taylor ran for his third touchdown of the game for Escambia, and the Cougars went for two points and made it for 22-21 lead.
“We had too many turnovers and a late fumble that did not help, but Garrett came through for us again,” Gibson said.
Last year, Hall made a field goal against Tuscaloosa Academy that was the difference in a playoff win and has been clutch as a kicker the past two years. He also made a 31-yard field goal against Bessemer in the season opener, so he is perfect on PATs and field goals in 2020.
“If I get to the 20 and the drive stalls, I am going to take the points every time,” Gibson said. “Garrett has worked hard and has always been accurate and has long range as well.”
The Gator offense did have one standout—halfback Kye Robichaux had 57 of Glenwood’s 70 yards rushing and a pass reception for 51 yards for a total of 108 of the Gator’s 121 yards on offense.
“We have work to get ready for Friday,” Gibson said, “but we see now that we are battle tested and playing two powerhouse teams like that can only make us better.”