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James’ gang hopes to wrangle Escambia’s “Cowboy”

LINDEN – The Longhorns look to continue their winning ways this week as they hit the road to face Escambia Academy and its top performer, “Cowboy” McGhee.

McGhee has helped lead the Cougars to a 4-2 mark overall, accounting for 116 yards and a touchdown on just 16 carries last week against Wilcox Academy while also recording 12 tackles on defense.

“We’ve got to stop Cowboy,” Marengo Academy head coach Robby James said of the Cougars’ standout. “Every time you turn around, he’s either running the ball or making a tackle.”

For the Longhorns (3-3), a good showing against Escambia is crucial as the team has put together its first winning streak of the season with back-to-back victories over Kingwood and East Memorial.

“It’s not a region game, but it’s the next game,” James said of the contest against Class AA Escambia. “We don’t want to go backward. We want to go down and play well.”

Playing well for James’ gang likely means duplicating the defensive performance it had against EMCA on the road last week. James admitted being surprised by the way his team’s defensive unit flew to the ball on every play against the Wildcats.

“They surprised me over there (in Prattville),” James said. “Our defense really got after it.”

Limiting the Cougar offense will likely be no small task for Marengo as Escambia enters with a ground-oriented attack that produced a pair of rushers who hit the century mark a week ago in McGhee and Jon Dean, who tallied 100 yards and two scores on 18 carries.

“They’ve got a good football team. They’ve got a 4.5 wingback and a 4.6 wingback,” James said. “They’re very powerful on the inside. You try to stop that and they’ll run the sweep on you.”

In as much as the Cougars boast a ground game the Longhorns figure to counter with more of the same. Rabe Hale, who has totaled more than 300 yards rushing over the last two games, and Matt Etheridge have anchored a Longhorn offense that has thrown only seven passes combined during MA’s two-game win streak.

“I like running the football. There are just so many things that can happen when you put the ball in the air,” James said. “If the plays are going, we’re not going to run it a whole lot. We do like to throw and there are going to be times when we have to throw.”

For James’ team, which features less than 20 players dressing out each week, running the ball is not only a preference, but a necessity.

“There’s a lot of things we would like to try to do,” James said, “but when you have the number of guys that we do, you have a different mentality. We’re trying to run the ball and get to the fourth quarter and win the game.”

If that strategy proves effective this week in Atmore, the Longhorns will have a winning record for the first time this season and a handful of momentum as they head back into region play next week against Prattville Christian.