Eagles try to put tough loss to TRM in the past
By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
Nobody will question the physical and emotional intensity the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles had in Friday's 20-14 loss to T.R. Miller.
The question that faces the Blue Eagles now is did they use up all their emotion in that game. That question will be answered Friday when W.S. Neal visits the Geneva Panthers in a 7:30 p.m. non-region contest.
"We gave it everything we had against T.R. Miller, but our players will bounce back. When we went back to practice Monday, our players were fired back up again in anticipation of playing Geneva," W.S. Neal coach Shane Smothers said.
While the Blue Eagles (7-2 overall) will be at Aliceville next week in the opening round of the Class 3A playoffs, Geneva will be staying home. The Panthers were bounced from the playoff picture Friday when they lost to Opp 28-21. Geneva ( 4-3 in region play and 5-4 overall) finished in a tie for fourth place with Daleville in Class 4A Region 2, but Daleville got the playoff berth with its 24-21 head-to-head win over Geneva.
"Even though Geneva isn't in the playoffs, they are still a good team. It's also a dangerous team for us to play. Since it's their last game of the season, they can throw every trick in their play book and some that aren't in the play book at us. Their players want to win this game just as much as our players do," Smothers said.
Although the Blue Eagles' postseason position is set, Smothers said it is still important for his team to enter the playoffs on a high note.
"It doesn't matter what situation we're in. Our attitude is we play every game to win," Smothers said.
Perhaps an even bigger goal for Smothers' team is a return to good health. The Blue Eagles played much of the second half against T.R. Miller without starters Alphonso Gross, Roc Herbert and Kendreal Williams.
"Those guys were fine Monday, but obviously we don't want to have any additional injuries Friday right before the playoffs," Smothers said.
Smothers indicated he plans to use more players at Geneva.
"We started using too many players both ways against T.R. Miller, especially with our linemen. We want to limit our two-way players Friday and play a lot of kids. That will give more players some game reps before the playoffs and that will lessen the chance of injury to our usual starters," Smothers said.
While W.S. Neal's defense was touched for 20 second half points in the loss to T.R. Miller, Smothers is not pointing at that part of his team's game as its downfall. In addition to being held scoreless, W.S. Neal's offense did not have any first downs and just 10 total yards in the second half Friday.
"Our defense produced four turnovers and gave us some great field position. Unfortunately we didn't take full advantage of those opportunities," Smothers said. "I take the blame for us not being able to pick up a first down in the second half when Alphonso was sidelined. We weren't prepared to play without him and I take responsibility."
The Blue Eagles coach said his team's pass defense will probably get a good workout at Geneva.
"They usually line up out of the shot gun like we do, but they throw the ball a lot more than we do," Smothers said. "They run the ball O.K., but they like to throw it."