WSN downs Elba in week three
By By Scott Cooper Sports reporter
As the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles entered the halftime break of Friday night's Region 1 matchup with the Elba Tigers, they found themselves engaged in a much tougher battle than many anticipated.
Locked in a 7-7 tie at the midway point and having trouble getting untracked against the winless Tigers, the Blue Eagles searched for answers that would allow them to take control of the game.
Fueled by the bitter taste of their lackluster opening-half performance, Smothers said the Blue Eagles searched their souls and found the answers they sought were within themselves.
Indeed, Neal (2-1, 1-1) performed on a different level in the second half.
With errors, mistakes and missed assignments being kept at a minimum, the Blue Eagles began asserting their dominance. While the defense consistently made moving the ball difficult for the Tigers, Neal's offense got untracked with a mixture of long drives and game-breaking plays. A third-quarter touchdown accounted for a 14-7 Blue Eagle lead before two more touchdowns in the final stanza stretched the winning total to 27-7.
Neal put the ball in play on its 48-yard line to begin the game, but suffered negative yardage at the hands of the Elba defense. After three offensive plays, the Blue Eagles punted to the Tigers' 25-yard line.
With Jake Bailey, Cal Daniel and Mario Daniel making big defensive plays for the Blue Eagles, Elba was forced into negative yardage on its initial offensive series before punting to Neal's 42-yard line.
On their second possession, the Blue Eagles mounted a drive that showed promise. Following a Bailey run on first down for a couple, two consecutive Alphonso Gross carries moved the ball into Tiger territory at the 17-yard line. However, the march ended there as a fumble on the next snap was recovered by Elba.
With Roc Herbert, Jeremy Burch and Bailey leading the defensive charge on Elba's next possession, Neal got the ball back and embarked on a short scoring drive.
Marcus Folmar's return of the Tigers' punt put the Blue Eagles in business on the Elba 23-yard line. An illegal procedure penalty on first down placed the ball back to the 28-yard line, but then Justin Smith's quarterback keeper was good for 18 yards. Burch powered his way for four yards on the next play to the 6-yard line. Following a four-yard loss back to the 10-yard line, Smith rolled-out to his left and turned the corner before cutting it up the field and across the goal line. Spencer Williamson's PAT split the uprights for a 7-0 Neal lead with 3:31 left in the opening quarter.
It took only 24 seconds for the Tigers to strike back. Beginning from their own 44-yard line after the kickoff return, the Tigers were awarded 15 yards after a Neal facemask penalty. Then, a pass completion along the right sideline covered the remaining 41 yards needed a touchdown. The PAT knotted the score at 7-7 with 3:07 remaining in the first quarter.
Neither team seriously threatened to score the remainder of the half. Penalties and turnovers coupled with the aggressive play of the opposing defensive units thwarted the offensive efforts of both teams while maintaining the 7-7 deadlock.
Neal's defensive unit set the tone of the second half starting with the Tigers' first possession. Following a first down run that lost four yards, Kendreal Williams registered a quarterback sack on second down for an 8-yard loss. Bailey and Herbert then teamed on third down to stop a running play for no gain and force a punt.
The Blue Eagles assumed possession on their 36-yard line and proceeded to march down the field. Led by Gross, who finished with 193 yards on 24 carries, Neal's offense moved to the Elba 19-yard line before consecutive penalties pushed the ball back to the 41-yard line. Following an incomplete third down pass attempt, the Blue Eagles punted to the Tiger 4-yard line.
Markell Marshall, Cory Freeman, Williams and Bailey took charge defensively from there. Freeman narrowly missed blocking a fourth down punt, but disrupted the effort enough to give Neal possession on Elba's 13-yard line.
On first down, Gross took it off tackle for three yards to the 10-yard line. A holding call set the Blue Eagles back to the 19-yard line, but then Gross got the call the next play on a toss sweep and sped into the end zone. Williamson's PAT padded the lead to 14-7 with 1:12 to go in the third quarter.
After forcing a punt on Elba's next offensive series, the Blue Eagles broke the game open with a swift, but lethal offensive effort.
Putting the ball in play on the Neal 40-yard line, a holding call on first down moved the Blue Eagles back ten yards. On the following snap, Gross took the handoff to his left and broke tackle after tackle before cutting upfield on his way to a 70-yard touchdown.
The Blue Eagles led 20-7 with 10:10 remaining in the contest after the PAT was unsuccessful.
Stellar play by Neal's defense was responsible for the final score of the game.
The Tigers, beginning an offensive series on their 20-yard line following a stalled Neal drive, lost two yards on first down courtesy of the Blue Eagles' Chris Johnson.
Herbert then came through with an interception on the next play and returned it to the Elba 15-yard line.
Two straight Bailey runs up the middle covered the required distance to paydirt.
Williamson's PAT followed to end the scoring in the second-half onslaught responsible for the Blue Eagles' 27-7 runaway victory.