Blue Eagles remain in playoff hunt, 49-6
By By SCOTT COOPER – Sports Writer
The W.S. Neal Blue Eagles continue holding tightly to their playoffs aspirations, as they traveled Friday night for a regional meeting with the Calhoun Tigers and returned with a resounding 49-6 win.
The Blue Eagles scored touchdowns on their first two possessions in building a 14-0 first quarter lead and cruised from there to the victory that improves their season record to 4-3 and keeps them in the hunt for a playoff spot with a 3-2 regional mark.
Following the win, Neal head coach Jim Fountain said he was pleased with the manner in which the Blue Eagles performed as they attempt to get into post season play.
Neal's fast start out of the blocks left little doubt they intended to put the winless Tigers (0-7) away quickly. After Calhoun received the opening kickoff on their 20-yard line, the Blue Eagle defense forced a punt after only three plays.
Alphonso Gross, who had 101 yards rushing on six carries in a little over two quarters of action, received the punt on the Neal 40-yard line and returned it to the Tigers' 30-yard line to set-up the first scoring drive.
On first down, Nick Benjamin found Paul Crabtree open along the left sideline and hit him with a 23-yard strike down to the Tigers' 7-yard line. Two plays later, Gross got the call on a counter trap and waltzed into the end zone. Benjamin's PAT was true and gave the Blue Eagles a 7-0 lead with 9:36 remaining in the opening quarter.
Calhoun received the ensuing kickoff and mounted a drive that moved into Neal territory before the Blue Eagle defense stiffened.
Beginning from their own 30-yard line, a Tigers' first down run was stopped for no gain, but then a 17-yard pass completion moved the ball to the 47-yard line. Another pass completion for a 15-yard gain placed the ball on the Neal 35-yard line and gave the Tigers a first down. The next three plays netted only three yards and the Blue Eagle defense stuffed a fourth down and five possession play to set the stage for another Neal scoring drive.
Gross gained five yards off tackle before consecutive Tristen Elliott runs were good for 17 yards to the Calhoun 48-yard line. After Benjamin gained two yards on a quarterback keeper, Gross took the pitchout on a toss sweep to the left before cutting across the field on his way to a 46-yard touchdown run. Benjamin converted the PAT and Neal held a 14-0 lead with just over two minutes left in the first quarter.
As the first period ended and the second quarter began, Calhoun's offense was in possession deep in its own territory at the 10-yard line. After a first down run netted no gain, Keith Woods penetrated to sack the Calhoun quarterback for a 7-yard loss. Then, Roc Herbert stuffed a third down running attempt, forcing a punt from the 3-yard line.
As the Calhoun punter received the snap in the end zone, Jake Bailey was there to meet him as he strode into his kick and blocked the punt that Chris Johnson recovered for a Neal touchdown. Benjamin split the uprights with the PAT to stretch the Blue Eagle advantage to 21-0 with 11:50 left before intermission.
The Neal defensive unit asserted itself once again on Calhoun's next possession.
After a first down run from the Tigers' 22-yard line was good for four yards, Calhoun faced a second down and six to go when Elliott picked-up a fumble and returned it 26 yards for a Blue Eagle touchdown. Benjamin's PAT padded the Neal cushion to 28-0.
Neal continued dominating play in the final five minutes of the half as two more scoring drives added to their already insurmountable lead.
A seven-play, 75-yard march started with a Gross run for three yards and a Benjamin to Mario Daniel pass completion for an 11-yard gain. Two straight Elliott runs covered 24 yards down to Tigers' 37-yard line. Following a 19-yard Benjamin to Cory Freeman aerial connection, DeWayne Floyd scored from 18 yards out on an off-tackle run. Spencer Williamson kicked the PAT, making the score 35-0.
The final score of the half came after a short Calhoun punt put Neal in business on the Tigers' 35-yard line.
A first down pass from Floyd to J.J. Pitts covered 12 yards to the 23-yard line. Daniel gained seven yards with a run on the next snap, and then Floyd hit Crabtree along the right sideline on a 16-yard scoring pass. Williamson's PAT closed out the scoring at 42-0 as the teams headed to the halftime break.
Gross returned the second half kickoff to the Calhoun 45-yard line before getting the call on consecutive runs that quickly placed the Blue Eagles even further ahead.
A first down toss sweep to the left by Gross gained 12 yards. On the next play, Gross took the handoff straight up the field on his way to a 33-yard touchdown run. Williamson nailed the PAT to give the Blue Eagles a 49-0 lead with less than two minutes expired in the third quarter.
Neal's coaching staff took advantage of the big lead to allow some of the experienced Blue Eagle players an opportunity to gain playing time.
With Neal's younger players holding their own, the remainder of the contest was evenly contested. Calhoun managed a touchdown on a three-yard pass as time was about to expire. The Blue Eagles stopped the two-point conversion attempt to exit on the top end of a 49-6 score.