MONTGOMERY, AL – When Escambia Academy defensive tackle Trae Lee grabbed his first career interception, he wasn’t satisfied with his 23-yard interception return.
So the 248-pound senior made the most of a second opportunity, returning it 70 yards for a touchdown.
“I was surprised to see them run the same play to my side after the first interception, but once I saw it leave the quarterback’s hands, I said it’s coming to me,” Lee said. “I saw it leave his hands and once I saw the green grass, I said nobody can catch me. I thought I heard someone coming so I told myself I have to run faster.”
Lee’s return helped the Cougars erupt for 22 points in the second quarter on the way to an easy 35-12 win over First Baptist School of Charleston (S.C.) in the inaugural Southeastern Commission of Independent Schools Kickoff Classic on Saturday night at Cramton Bowl.
Formed in January, 2016, the Southeastern Commission of Independent Schools (SECIS) is an academic and athletic collaboration of the Alabama Independent School Association, Georgia Independent School Association, Mississippi Association of Independent Schools and South Carolina Independent School Association.
The event opened with a pair of games on Friday. Brookwood School of Thomasville, Ga., defeated Trinity-Byrnes Collegiate School of Darlington, S.C., 31-0 and Madison-Ridgeland Academy of Madison, Miss., defeated Valwood School of Hahira, Ga., 34-2.
“It was a great experience,” Lee said. “Just playing a team from out of state is always a great experience because you learn something new about the other state. You learn about other players and their mentality.”
One thing that helped Lee’s experience was a balance of rushing and passing that helped the Cougars wear down the Hurricanes. Escambia rushed for 151 yards and threw for 177 more, using big plays to set up its first three scores before Lee added a fourth with his interception return and Louie Turner ran 47 yards for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage in the second half for a 35-6 lead.
“The game plan was to wear them down,” Escambia coach Hugh Fountain said. “We knew 2 (tailback Michel Dukes) was a good player. They return the whole team from last year. We thought their experience up front was going to hurt us because we lost the majority of our guys up front from last year, but we just kept pounding at them.”
First Baptist took an early 6-0 lead but the game quickly spiraled out of hand as six starters left the field with injuries.
“We had some important players go down (with injuries) and we had two blown coverages that were for scores,” First Baptist coach Johnny Waters said. “And then we threw a slip screen (for Lee’s interception) and that was another score. That was three scores and we go in at halftime and it’s four scores to one and it should have been one to one. By that time, we’re beat up.”
Fountain didn’t seem surprised at Lee’s first two career interceptions.
“He’s on every screen anybody ever throws on us,” he said. “They didn’t see that, I guess, on film.”
Waters noted the two interceptions “were good plays by him, but we shouldn’t have thrown them. I might throw that play out of the playbook.”
Escambia (1-0) returns home to play Abbeville Christian next Friday, while First Baptist (0-1) returns home to play Charleston M&S next week.
EA – 7-22-6-0—35
FBS – Xavion Washington 17-yard reception from Cameron Berl (Jack Dragon kick blocked)
EA – Louie Turner 6-yard run (Kainoa Gumapac kick)
EA – Gary Campbell 46-yard reception from Kainoa Gumapac (Jackson Bonner kick failed)
EA – Louie Turner 4-yard run (Flavors 2-pt reception)
EA – Trae Lee 70-yard interception return (Jackson Bonner kick blocked)
EA – Michel Dukes tackled by Jamie Welker in end zone for safety
EA – Louie Turner 47-yard run (PAT failed)
FBS – Michel Dukes 15-yard reception from Cameron Berl (Berl 2-pt pass incomplete)
FBS -- EA
First Downs 16 -- 12
Rush-Yds 23-55 –37-151
Passing Yds 180 -- 177
Passes 16-41-2 -- 6-11-0
Punts-Avg. 5-145 (29.0) --- 2-84 (42.5)
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 – 4-3
Penalties-Yds 6-45 – 8-83
RUSHING: EA – Turner 9-96; Gumapac 8-16; McGhee 6-14; Davis 3-11; Gorme 4-10; Brown 6-8; Dawe 1-(-4). FBS – Dukes 15-47; Murphy 6-10; Berl 2 –(-2).
PASSING: EA – Gumapac 3-5-0, 147; Dawe 3-5-0, 30. FBS – Berl 16-41-2, 180.
RECEIVING: EA – Campbell 3-63; Flavors 2-61; McGhee 1-53. FBS – Green 4-70; Dukes 6-64; S. Washington 3-25; X. Washington 2-20; Scott 1-11.
TACKLES: EA – Lee 11 tackles, 4 TFL (9 yds), 2 INT (93 yds). FBS – Timmy Campbell 6 tackles.