Neal football seniors got program turned around
By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
Members of this year's W.S. Neal Blue Eagles football team will remember their 10-3 record and state quarterfinal berth or a long time.
For the nine senior members of that team, it marked a remarkable turnaround in the program from where it was when they freshmen.
Few probably now recall W.S. Neal was in the midst of a 16-game losing streak when this year's seniors began high school.
While W.S. Neal halted the losing streak that fall, it limped across the finish line with a 3-8 record.
Better days were on the way. That mark improved to 6-5 in 2001, 6-4 in 2002 and 10-3 this season.
While current Blue Eagles coach Shane Smothers had the opportunity to coach this year's senior class for just one season, he was left with some everlasting memories.
"Our seniors were a great group to work with. They had a lot of talent. They're all good people and each senior is unique in his own special way," Smothers said. "Before the season started we met with the players and told the seniors they had to be the leaders on this team. They each did it in different ways, but they were all leaders. I'm really going to miss them."
Chris Johnson (DE): "Chris was one of the most dedicated players I've had. I've never coached a player of his size (6-2, 265), who could move as well as he could," Smothers said.
Kendreal Williams (DL): "Kendreal was a very quiet person, but his play always spoke big on Friday nights. We never had one discipline problem with Kendreal. I don't recall our coaches ever having to get on him a second time to do something," Smothers said.
Marcus Folmar (WR)/DB): "Marcus has a great head on his shoulders. He is one of the brightest young men I've had to deal with. He is also our school's senior class president," Smothers said.
Brett Chancery (WR): "Brett didn't play last year, but he came out during our summer workouts and worked hard throughout the course of the season. He is a great young man who does a lot of things within his church," Smothers said.
Cody Anthony (WR/DB): "Cody was a lot like Brett in that we really didn't know what position to put him in before the season started. He had one of the biggest hearts on our team," Smothers said.
Chason Godbolt (WR/DB): "We nicknamed Chason 'Goofy." He always has a smile on his face and he is a fun kid to be around," Smothers said.
Roc Herbert (LB/P): "Roc's name is appropriate because he was the rock of this team. He had better than 200 plus tackles this season, which has to be one of the top totals in the state. He also averaged nearly 40 yards per punt until he was unable to kick due to injury late in the season. He saw everything that went on while he was on the field," Smothers said.
Jeremy Burch (RB/LB): "Jeremy had to sit out last season after he transferred. His play really came on as the season went along, especially the last five games or so. Jeremy is a great person who is full of life. He also does a lot to study the game. He was always watching film," Smothers said.
Alphonso Gross (RB/DB): Numbers speak plenty for Gross, who moved into or near the top 10 in the state in several categories for both season and career.
"The thing I'll remember about Alphonso is his determination. He wanted to be the best. At the same time he is a very unselfish player. Everything he did was for this team," Smothers said.
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Smothers said the Blue Eagles' non-region series against Class 4A member Geneva has probably ended. W.S. Neal concluded the regular season at Geneva this past season.
"It looks like they're going to play Straughn in week 10, which would leave us with an open date that week. I don't want us to have an open date in week 10 because it is right before the playoffs. We'll try to find another team to play. Otherwise we'll try to rearrange our schedule and move another team into the week 10 spot," Smothers said.
The Blue Eagles will keep non-region opponents Evergreen and Escambia County on their schedule along with their seven region dates.
Jefferson Davis Community College basketball sophomore Greg Dickinson went into last weekend's play ranked number three in the nation in scoring.
Dickinson was averaging 23.6 points a game at the time of the listing. He has since had games of 25 against Alabama Southern and 21 against LB Wallace. That dropped Dickinson's average to 23.4.
Jerminey Bennett of Panola College, which is located in Carthage, Texas, leads the nation at 28.4 points a game. Marcus Perry of Southern Union State, which competes in Region 22 along with JDCC, is second at 26.0 points a game.
Spots still remain for Saturday's Three-on-Three Basketball Tournament, which will be held at Jefferson Davis Community College.
There is no age limit for participants. Teams may be all male, all female or mixed.
The cost for teams to play is $60. Play is single elimination. However, teams may reenter the tournament after a loss for an additional $30.
Various prizes will be awarded. The grand prize will be tickets to a New Orleans Hornets game plus a one night's stay at a motel.
Registration will be accepted until the day of competition. Teams are asked to register no later than 8:30 a.m. Play will begin at 9 a.m.
To register or for more information, contact Khristie Gainer at 809-1536.