Homecoming heartbreakPublished 12:01am Saturday, October 20, 2012
The weather turned cool in East Brewton Friday, and so did the W.S. Neal offense as the Opp Bobcats came into town and stunned the No. 9-ranked W.S. Neal Eagles 14-0 on homecoming.
The Bobcats held W.S. Neal to only 164 total yards of offense — 151 on the ground — while racking up 268 yards of their own, with 234 on the ground.
W.S. Neal head coach Doug Hoehn said turnovers were a problem for the Eagles.
“We helped them with some turnovers,” he said. “A good football team like that, you can’t do that. You can’t give them turnovers. I don’t want to take anything away from Opp. They came out tonight and just played football tonight. That is the bottom line. They played very good football. We saw what they do on defense. We saw it last week. They showed up to play. I don’t want to take anything away from them, but I don’t think we played our best game. Turnovers killed us, but I don’t want to take anything away from Opp.”
With the win for Opp and the loss for W.S. Neal, the Bobcats and Eagles are now tied with Straughn and Bayside at 4-2 and are fighting for the playoffs — giving next week’s Battle of Murder Creek even greater significance.
Hoehn said distractions during the week may have hurt his team Friday night.
“I think we were dealing with a couple of things,” he said. “It was homecoming, and we got more press this week than we have had in two years since I have been here. The rankings came out, but we are going to have to do a better job of making sure the kids stay focused. We talked to them about one play at a time, but in reality, kids do look ahead. I am just going to have to make sure that never happens again. Did we play our best game tonight? No. By no means whatsoever. We were not physical. We did not stay on our blocks. We lined up wrong on defense. We turned the ball over. But at the same time, the Opp kids showed up to play and I want to give them the credit.”
Neither team scored in the second half as the Bobcats stayed alive for the playoff in class 3A region 1.
Whigham praised his defense in the win over the Eagles, who had been averaging 400 yards rushing and scoring over 40 points a game. The shutout on offense was the first for the Eagles this season and first in the Doug Hoehn era.
The Eagles had not been shut out since the fourth game of the 2010 season — a 60-0 loss to Escambia County of Atmore.
“We just have struggled so much this year,” Opp head coach Jack Whigham said. “We have had a ton of injuries. We have kids that are hurt, but of course everyone has kids that are hurt. We have struggled so much with injuries and for these kids to come down here and to hold a team that is scoring 30 points a game to nothing is just a great job by our defensive staff and everything. We did just enough on offense to win the game.”
Opp scored first on a 9-yard run from Onterrio Jones to lead 7-0 with 4:21 left in the first. In the second quarter, W.S. Neal fumbled at the Opp 3-yard line. One play later, Octavious Bonham rushed 97 yards to put the Bobcats up 14-0.
“In all the films, we knew what (W.S. Neal) had done,” Whigham said. “We just asked our defensive linemen to sacrifice themselves and get up underneath the pile and not give them any seams and they did a great job with that. We had linebackers that made plays and we did not give the big play up. Neal has been pounding folks and pounding folks and then busting that big play and they just never got that play and that momentum.”
Bonham led with 116 yards on eight carries and one touchdown. Marquese Banks led W.S. Neal with 97 yards on 20 carries.
W.S. Neal — who received their first ranking the polls since 2006 — fell to 6-2 overall and to 4-2 in region play while Opp improved to 5-3 overall and to 4-2 in region play.
W.S. Neal will play at T.R. Miller next week in the Battle of Murder Creek, while Opp hosts Straughn in a key region game.
Whigham said he thinks the Eagles may have been looking forward to next week’s game with T.R. Miller and might have looked past his Opp Bobcats.
“In all honesty, I started out in the spread because I wanted to see what they would do in the spread, but we just did not look comfortable in it,” Whigham said of his ball-control offense Friday night. The Bobcats held the ball for the first 8:34 of the fourth quarter. “When we got the lead, I did not want to throw the ball and stop the clock and we wanted the clock to run. I just decided to run the ball and run the clock out and the linemen did a nice job and we made enough yards. We made a big play throwing it one time in the second half on about a third-and-14. Our quarterback did a great job of managing the clock. This is a tough place to win and I know about that. (T.R. Miller) coach (Jamie Riggs) taught me a long time ago that the quickest way to get beat in football is to have punting problems and lose your humility, and I talked to our kids that I think we might have been overlooked just a little bit. No disrespect to W.S. Neal, but I think they were looking forward to next week (T.R. Miller and Battle of Murder Creek) and I think we were able to come in and play a good ballgame against them.”
W.S. Neal lost three fumbles in the game while Opp lost two. One Eagle fumble led to the 97-yard score for the Bobcats while one came on an Opp punt in the third quarter.