It’s been three long weeks since the Escambia Gators (4-3, 0-1) have felt their home field under their cleats.
Since the Gators’ home win Sept. 18, Escambia has gone 1-2, with losses to District 1-6A co-leader Pine Forest and Navarre (ranked No. 1 in PNJ power poll.)
Escambia will aim to exercise its home-field advantage Friday, when the Tate Aggies (5-1, 1-0) come to town in another critical District 1-6A showdown.
“Like most of our games this season, this is a big game,” said Escambia coach Mike Davis, whose Gators have played through what is likely the area’s toughest schedule. “We are just trying to focus on what we do. Hopefully by laying the teams we’ve played this season, this game (vs. Tate) won’t come in any different.”
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With a win, Escambia would shake up the district standings and be tied with Tate in the chase.
The Gators will need to bring lockdown defense, led by linebacker Khyri Loveless (50 tackles, 6 sacks).
“Defense has done good this week in practice,” Davis said. “They have been out there learning what to do against Tate.”
However, the Tate Aggies feel equally prepared and are riding a two-game win streak.
“(When you face Escambia) you’ve gotta make sure you are disciplined, especially defensively,” Tate coach Jay Lindsey said. “Each kid has a responsibility that they have to carry out come Friday night.”
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And though Tate holds the edge in the win column and the district standings, Lindsey doesn’t expect his experienced group to take the game lightly.
“Records are out the window,” Lindsey said. “Escambia is very good and if you wanna make the playoffs, these are the games that count.
“We’ve got veteran kids, they know what is at stake. You wanna live in the moment and treat all of our games the same.”
But like Escambia earlier this year, the Aggies are currently on game No. 2 of a three-game road trip.
Tate will aim to play physical defense and read-and-react on offense. QB Sawyer Smith has found copious amounts of targets and explosive backs this season to keep Tate’s offense unpredictable, as the Aggies average 240 rushing yards per game and 185 passing yards per game.
“We really pride ourselves on being a balanced offense,” Lindsey said. “We’re never gonna force the run or force the pass. I think we are good enough to take what the defense gives us. It all depends on the flow of the game. It’s more of a feel on Friday night.”
DISTRICT 1-6A SHOWDOWN
Who: Tate Aggies vs. Escambia Gators.
Where: Emmitt Smith Field.
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.
Records: Tate (5-1, 1-0 in District 1-6A); Escambia (4-3, 0-1 in 1-6A)