Net Gross: 210 yards, five touchdowns
By By Bruce Hixon Sports Editor
W.S. Neal Blue Eagles coach Shane Smothers had a simple explanation for the success of senior running back Alphonso Gross.
"He just went out and did his thing," Smothers said.
Gross' "thing" Friday produced 16 carries for 210 yards and five touchdowns in the Blue Eagles 48-14 road win over the Hayneville Central Lions.
Gross was just part of a WS Neal offensive machine that netted 416 yards, 355 of which came on the ground.
"We got a lot of people involved in the offense, but the success started up front with the play of our offensive line. Our line continues to get better every week," Smothers said. "I also thought Justin Smith did a good job of running our offense at quarterback, especially considering he is just a freshman."
The win boosted W.S. Neal to 3-1 overall, 2-1 in Class 3A Region 1. Meanwhile Hayneville Central dropped to 2-2 in both Class 3A Region 1 and overall.
"It doesn't matter who it is. All these region games are big. It's even more important to get a win when you're out on the road," Smothers said.
While the Blue Eagles offense certainly did its part in the win, the W.S. Neal defense also had its say. Hayneville Central had just 147 yards in total offense and only two yards rushing. It was also a defensive play that changed the complexion of the game.
Hayneville Central quarterback Kendall Moorer had completed six of 12 passes for 117 yards with one touchdown when he was injured on a hit in front of the W.S. Neal bench midway through the second quarter. Moorer was unable to continue and the Lions' offense had just 30 more yards the rest of the game.
"Obviously his injury really hurt them. Before that he was really hurting us in the secondary," said Smothers. "We also made some defensive changes. We went from playing man to zone pass defense and forced them to throw short."
The other thing that hurt Hayneville Central was self-infliction. The Lions had 18 penalties for 145 yards.
W.S. Neal fumbled near midfield on the opening possession, but that was one of the few times the Eagles' offense failed to come away with points.
The next time around, Gross began his huge night with a 62-yard touchdown run on his first carry of the game. Spencer Williamson's point after kick gave the Eagles a 7-0 advantage with 7:38 left in the opening period.
Moorer's passing arm burned the W.S. Neal defense on the following possession, as he completed two psses to Jesse Harris, one for 38 yards and the other a 39-yard touchdown reception with 5:15 left in the opening frame. W.S. Neal was able to retain a 7-6 lead when Darrell Johnson's PAT kick was blocked.
It remained that way until the first play of the second quarter when Gross broke loose again, this time on a 60-yard touchdown run. A bad snap led to an incomplete pass on the conversion, which left the Blue Eagles lead at 13-6.
W.S. Neal extended that cushion with a six-play, 49-yard march midway through the second period. The biggest play was a 32-yard pass from Marquis Barksdale to Ben Crane on a fourth down and 12 from the Central 35.
That completion took the ball the Hayneville Central three-yard line. One play later Gross was back in the endzone with his third rushing touchdown of the first half. Smith ran in a two-point conversion to bump the advantage to 21-6 with 6:38 left in the half.
Gross made it four touchdowns in the first half when he ran one in from eight yards out with 2:17 left before the break. Williamson's PAT kick made it 28-6.
With Moorer out, the W.S. Neal defense was especially stingy in the second half and allowed just two first downs and only 24 yards.
Meanwhile the Blue Eagles' offense proved it was more than just Gross. On its first possession of the second half W.S. Neal took advantage of a short field and drove 38 yards on just three plays. Jeremy Burch became the first Blue Eagle to reach the endzone other than Gross with a seven-yard run up the middle. Josh Danley got into the kicking act and booted the PAT to make it 35-6 with 8:08 left in the quarter.
The passing game set up the Blue Eagles next score, as Smith connected with Marcus Folmar on a 37-yard completion on the last play of the third quarter. That play set up a seven-yard touchdown run by, who else, Gross on the first play of the fourth quarter. A missed extra point kick left the Blue Eagles' lead at 41-6.
W.S. Neal got its final touchdown with 1:13 to go when Ryan Andrews ran one in from 14 yards out. Danley's PAT kick gave the visitors a 48-6 lead.
Hayneville Central finally ended a string of 41 unanswered WS Neal points when Darrell Johnson ran the ensuing kickoff back 74 yards for a touchdown. Jamie Rush hit Jesse Harris on a two-point pass to finish the scoring.
W.S. Neal travels to Escambia County next Friday.
At Hayneville Central
W.S. Neal 7 21 7 13 – 48
Hayneville C. 6 0 0 8 – 14
W.S. NEAL- Gross 62 yard run (Williamson kick)
HAYNEVILLE CENTRAL- Je. Harris 39 yard pass from Moorer (kick failed)
W.S. NEAL- Gross 60 yard run (pass failed)
W.S. NEAL- Gross 3 yard run (Smith run)
W.S. NEAL- Gross 8 yard run (Williamson kick)
W.S. NEAL- Burch 7 yard run (Danley kick)
W.S. NEAL- Gross 7 yard run (kick failed)
W.S. NEAL- Andrews 5 yard run (Danley kick)
HAYNEVILLE CENTRAL- Johnson 74 yard kickoff return (Je. Harris pass from J. Rush)
First downs: W.S. Neal 17, Hayneville Central 9
Third down conversions: W.S. Neal 3-8, Hayneville Central 0-6
Fourth down conversions: W.S. Neal 1-1, Hayneville Central 0-2
Total yards: W.S. Neal 416 (355 rushing, 61 passing); Hayneville Central 147 (2 rushing, 145 passing)
Individual rushing: W.S. Neal- Gross 16-210 5TD, Smith 7-78, Bailey 6-32, Floyd 4-13, Burch 3-11 1TD, Travis 1-6, Andrews 1-5 1TD; Hayneville Central- J. Rush 3-11, S. Rush 8-9, Moorer 3-5, Je. Harris 1-(-1), Nelson 4-(-22)
Individual passing: W.S. Neal- Smith 2-4-37, Barksdale 1-5-24; Hayneville Central- Moorer 6-12-117 1TD, J. Rush 1-6-28 1INT
Individual receiving: W.S. Neal- Folmar 1-37, Crane 1-24, Travis 1-10; Hayneville Central- Je. Harris 3-105 1TD, J. Rush 2-34, Johnson 1-7, Johnson 1-7
Individual punting: W.S. Neal- Gross 2-60, 30.0 avg.; Hayneville Central- Moorer 4-122, 31.7
Penalties: W.S. Neal 7-55, Hayneville Central 18-145