Chambers Academy prepares for first round matchup with Escambia Academy
Published 11:59 am Wednesday, November 1, 2023
Chambers Academy kicks off the playoffs with a matchup against Escambia Academy this Friday.
The Rebels are coming off a thrilling upset win over the then-top-ranked Glenwood Gators. Going into the playoffs, Chambers Academy has faced all but three teams in the bracket, with the Cougars being one of them.
The matchup against Escambia Academy is a rehash of last season’s first-round matchup, which Chambers Academy won 56-12.
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“Some of those same kids are back, and some of them aren’t,” Chambers Academy coach Jason Allen said. “We’re familiar with their coach, and what they do. Of course, we’ve got a good bit of film on them.”
The Cougars rely heavily on their passing game. Quinton Odom is the focal point of the offense. The wideout stands at six-foot-five and averages 91 receiving yards per game.
Keller Coston is the guy under center. Coston is a dual-threat quarterback who averages just under 87 rushing yards per game, and he has totaled 25 passing touchdowns this season.
“They’ve got a wide receiver that I think is a Division I prospect,” Allen said. “That’s going to be a matchup problem for us. Their quarterback is a good runner, and he throws it well. They’re a spread team a lot like Glenwood was. They’ll spread the field out, and we’re going to have to try to keep them from making big plays.”
Luckily for Allen and the rest of the coaching staff, the secondary just had its best game of the season against Glenwood. Aidan Anglin came away with two interceptions and four pass breakups last. Kyle Hand and Koreen Henry also came away with several big plays. Those three are going to be crucial this week to limit Escambia Academy’s offense.
“I feel good,” Allen said. “Those guys have gotten better all year. I thought we played great against Glenwood, and we limited a very explosive offense. We tackled well, that’s a big one for me.”
The Rebels can rest easy on the offensive side thanks to two key playmakers. Chambers Academy brings the best running back duo in the state into the matchup against the Cougars.
Luke Tarver is the leading rusher, totaling 1,324 rushing yards on the season. Jacob Norgard is the second part of that two-headed monster. Norgard has 814 rushing yards this season.
“I’m very confident in them as long as our line continues to block the way that they’ve blocked,” Allen said.
“You don’t have to give those guys a whole lot of room. That’s really who we are. We’re going to attack you from many different directions. We have a multi-faceted run game, but those guys up front are what makes it happen.”
The entire offensive line has stepped up to make Chambers Academy’s offense one of the more dynamic offenses in the state.
Drew Sheppard and Ryan Ford anchor the offensive line at the two guard positions. Spencer Newman and Austin Brooks start at the tackle position while Blake Blake Reaves starts at center. Ryan Smith often serves as the lead blocker, and Eli Whorton comes in to block as well.
“That totally changed us on offense, and we’ve been rocking and rolling ever since then,” Allen said.
Kole Baker has stepped up to lead the Rebels at quarterback this season. Baker started last season, but he had to compete for the starting role this season. Baker has not been asked to do too much, but he has excelled as a game manager.
“He’s done a good job,” Allen said. “He’s gotten better and better. There are a lot of moving parts in our offense, and he does a good job with that. We ask him to hit open guys, we’re not asking him to make NFL window throws.”
Escambia Academy comes into the matchup against Chambers Academy with a 3-7 record. The Cougars are on a three-game losing streak.
Allen is worried about his team overlooking this matchup, especially after coming off the emotional win against Glenwood. Still, the coaching staff believes that the leaders of the team will step up this week.
“You just keep working hard,” Allen said. “We’ve had this almost bite us before. We’ll talk about that. The main thing I’ll talk about is that beating Glenwood doesn’t make our season. If we beat Glenwood and we don’t win a state championship, nobody is going to remember that we beat Glenwood. But if we can beat Glenwood and win the state championship, then that Glenwood game just puts a cherry on top.”
Several players were banged up during the game against Glenwood, but everybody will be a full go this week against Escambia Academy.