Exhibition loss gives Eagles learning tool
By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
They found some things that worked. They found some things that did not work.
Both areas from Thursday's 26-6 exhibition loss at Andalusia will give the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles plenty to work on between now and this week's regular season opener (Friday at home at 7:30 p.m. against Eufaula).
"The score wasn't the most important thing in this game. We wanted to try a lot of things. Some worked. Some didn't," W.S. Neal coach Shane Smothers said. "This gives us a lot better idea what we need to do in order to get ready for Eufaula. The other thing we wanted from this game was to come out with everybody healthy and I think we did that."
Thursday's final score was misleading. The host Bulldogs had just a 12-6 lead until they tacked on a couple of fourth quarter touchdowns after W.S. Neal's starting unit had left the game.
Both touchdowns allowed by the Blue Eagles number one defensive unit were set up by turnovers by the offense.
W.S. Neal starting quarterback Daniel Hodge completed his first three attempts in the opening frame, but pass number four was intercepted and returned all the way to the Blue Eagles' 13-yard line.
Although Andalusia's Jared McNeel was stopped for a one-yard loss on the first play after the turnover, Michael Berry made up for it on the next play with a 14-yard touchdown run to the left. Andrew McIntire's point after attempt was no good, a part of the game both teams would struggle with, that kept the score at 6-0 with 2:10 left in the opening quarter.
Another turnover, this one a lost fumble by Hodge with three seconds to go in the first quarter, put Andalusia back in business again at the W.S. Neal 44-yard line.
The ground game netted the Bulldogs 24 yards over six plays before they went to the air and hit paydirt with a 20-yard touchdown strike from Matt Malone to Charlie Barker. Again, McIntire's point after attempt kick failed and kept the score at 12-0 with 7:45 p.m. left in the first half.
While Andalusia converted two W.S. Neal first half turnovers into touchdowns, the Blue Eagles failed to take advantage of a turnover by the Bulldogs.
Jamie Green presented the opportunity when he recovered a fumble just inside Andalusia territory.
Two runs by Justin Smith for 19 yards and an 11-yard pass from Hodge to Johnathan Alexander helped move the Blue Eagles all the way to the Andalusia seven-yard line.
From there, the drive bogged down and W.S. Neal was forced to settle for a 26-yard field goal attempt by Spencer Williamson in the waning moments of the first half. Just like their other possesisons in the first half, the Blue Eagles came away with nothing when Williamson's attempt was blocked.
One play later Andalusia took its 12-0 lead into halftime.
Smothers' original game plan was to play his starting unit for one series in the second half. He opted for two.
That proved to be successful strategy, as the Blue Eagles needed just five plays to go 73 yards.
Mario Daniel put W.S. Neal on the board with a three-yard touchdown run that chopped Andalusia's lead in half at 12-6. However, the key play was a 54-yard completion from Hodge to Ben Crane. Crane looked as if he would cruise into the endzone, but was stopped three yards shy prior to Daniel's touchdown run.
Williamson came up short on the PAT that kept the gap at 12-6 with 1:20 left in the third quarter.
The W.S. Neal defense came up with a big stand after Andalusia's Curtis Johnson ran the ensuing kickoff back 80 yards to the Blue Eagles' seven-yard line.
The Bulldogs managed to penetrate just two yards on three running plays before the possession ended with Brent Odom's 22-yard field goal attempt that sailed wide left. The miss kept Andalusia's lead at 12-6.
The fourth quarter belonged to the reserves and the Bulldogs took advantage of the situation.
Andalusia had 141 yards of offense against W.S. Neal's top defensive unit and 118 yards in one quarter against the second unit.
Seventy-four of Andalusia's yards in that final frame came on two plays. First, Ladarius McNeel had a 34-yard touchdown run with 6:50 left. Berry's PAT kick was the first kick made by both teams on the evening and that made it 19-6.
Andalusia added some icing to its cake with 1:58 left when Martin Watson's first and only carry of the game resulted in a 39-yard touchdown run. Berry's kick accounted for the final 26-6 margin.
"It was really a 12-6 game with the number one unit and turnovers set up both of their scores. We had some trouble sustaining drives. Daniel threw the ball well, especially when you consider this was his first game ever. We had some good catches, but not at big times. We had too many drops," Smothers said. "Maybe the message we learned tonight is this isn't last year's team. We've got a lot of work to do."
W.S. Neal 0 0 6 0 – 6
Andalusia 6 6 0 14 – 26
ANDALUSIA- Berry 14 yard run (kick failed)
ANDALUSIA- Barker 26 yard pass from Malone (kick failed)
W.S. NEAL- Daniel 3 yard run (kick failed)
ANDALUSIA- L. McNeel 34 yard run (Berry kick)
ANDALUSIA- Watson 39 yard run (Berry kick)
First downs: W.S. Neal 7, Andalusia 11
Third down conversions: W.S. Neal 1-7, Andalusia 5-8
Fourth down conversions: W.S. Neal 1-1, Andalusia 0-1
Total yards: W.S. Neal 149 (57 rushing, 92 passing), Andalusia 259 (212 rushing, 47 passing)
Individual rushing: W.S. Neal- Bailey 6-31, J. Smith 3-19, Daniel 4-19 1TD, Ron. Travis 3-10, Biddle 2-6, B. Freeman 4-2, Dixon 1-0, Straiton 1-(-9), Peacock 1-(-9), Hodge 2-(-12); Andalusia- Knight 6-43; L. McNeel 4-43 1TD, Watson 1-39 1TD, Barker 3-21, J. McNeel 11-20, Berry 5-19 1TD, Johnson 5-16, Tomlin 2-8, Summers 1-3
Individual passing: W.S. Neal- Hodge 5-12-88 1INT, Peacock 1-2-4; Andalusia- Malone 3-7-47 1TD
Individual receiving: W.S. Neal- Bailey 2-9, Crane 1-57, Ron. Travis 1-11, Alexander 1-11, A. Smith 1-4; Andalusia- Barker 1-20 1TD, Tomlin 1-14, Summers 1-13
Individual punting: W.S. Neal- J. Smith 3-102, 34.0 avg., Hodge 2-73, 36.5 avg.; Andalusia- 2-71, 30.5 avg.
Penalties: W.S. Neal 4-20, Andalusia 5-32