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Neal having tough time filling 2004 football slate

By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
Most Alabama high school football teams will begin their season August 27.
With just over five months left until that date, the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles are still trying to find an opponent to play that week.
That is just the start of W.S. Neal's scheduling headaches for next season. The Blue Eagles also need to fill spots in week five and week 10.
None of W.S. Neal's non-region foes from last season decided to renew their contracts. The Blue Eagles had played Hillcrest in week one, Escambia County in week five and Geneva in week 10.
"It was pretty much a mutual agreement between Geneva and us to find somebody else to play in week 10. It's about a 100-mile trip between the two of us and they wanted to find somebody closer to play. I can't blame them for that," W.S. Neal coach/athletic director Shane Smothers said.
The real problems for the Blue Eagles schedule began when Hillcrest ended its series in favor for a game with R.C. Hatch and Escambia County signed up to play Bay Minette.
The only games W.S. Neal has in place so far for next season are its seven Class 3A Region 1 games. The Blue Eagles will be at Pike County in week two and at Slocomb in week three. They will host Headland in week four and Dale County in week six. The Blue Eagles visit Abbeville in week seven, host Straughn in week eight and play at T.R. Miller in week nine.
W.S. Neal played six of its 10 regular season games on the road last season. That included all three non-region games between Hillcrest, Escambia County and Geneva. Those games would have been home games this season.
"We knew the Geneva series was ending in week 10, but it really hurts losing Hillcrest and Escambia County because those were two home games. On top of that, both of those schools are only about 30 miles away," Smothers said. "There just aren't many schools close to us in size in this part of the state. You either have to play somebody much bigger or you have to travel a very long distance. We're running out of options."
W.S. Neal had already faced the bigger school situation with its previous schedule. Hillcrest and Geneva are Class 4A schools, while Escambia County is in Class 5A. The Blue Eagles compete in Class 3A.
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The W.S. Neal tennis team has rescheduled its match at Andalusia for April 7 with a 3 p.m. start.
The match was rained out on its original scheduled date of February 24.
The Brewton Youth Football Association will meet March 22-23 at 6 p.m. at the Brewton Public Library.
Board members will be elected for the upoming 2004 season.