Eagles scrambling to prepare for Trinity
By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
Talk about a change in fortunes for the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles.
Instead of having an opportunity to pick up their first win of the season against a winless Headland team last week, the Blue Eagles now must overcome the Trinity Presbyterian Wildcats.
All Trinity has going on its side is a 3-0 overall record, 2-0 in Class 4A Region 2, a number one ranking in the state, a 2003 state championship and an 18-game winning streak over two seasons.
The game is still slated to be played at W.S. Neal Friday although kickoff will most likely be bumped up to 4 p.m. due to a lack of power at the stadium. If power could be resumed by midweek, the starting time would revert back to the regularly scheduled time of 7:30 p.m.
"We're most likely looking at 4 p.m. We're getting to a point where we need to make a decision so we can let them make the necessary travel preparations," W.S. Neal coach Shane Smothers said.
While Blue Eagle Stadium appears to have no damage to it other than the loss of electricity, Smothers said the full extent of the damage will not be known until power is restored.
"We don't know if any lights need to be replaced or if our scoreboard works," Smothers said.
Getting the stadium ready to host a game is just one of the problems W.S. Neal is having to overcome. Perhaps an even bigger problem for Smothers has been getting in touch with his players and the return to practice. Out of nearly 60 players on the roster, only 19 participated in Monday's workouts. That figure increased to 32 Tuesday, but that was just over half the roster.
"We haven't had a full squad workout since last Monday. Even last Tuesday when school was still in session, a lot of our players left the area because of the storm. We've had a hard time getting hold of some of them. Some of them are still out of the area because there is no power here," Smothers said. "We're trying to prepare the players we do have here the best we can, but the others who aren't here are falling behind."
On the field, Trinity has rolled past Montgomery Academy 35-13 in a non-region game and Ashford 28-7 and Bullock County 60-6 in region contests.
The Wildcats feature one of the state's top passing attacks led by quarterback Rory McKean (6-3, 195 lb. sr.). McKean has already burned opposing defenses for 534 yards passing. McKean has completed 74 percent of his passes (32-for-43).
"McKean is a big kid with a good arm. He sees the field well. Trinity as a whole doesn't throw the deep ball that often,
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but they run a spread offense and their short passing game is very effective," Smothers said.
Trinity also has one of the state's best tight ends in Tommy Trott (6-5, 235 lb. sr.). Trott has caught 14 balls for 258 yards for three touchdowns. Austin Hoyt (6-2, 180 lb. sr.) is also an effective receiver with 11 catches for 160 yards and two touchdowns.
"Trott is getting attention from just about every Southeastern Conference school. He reminds me a lot of Nick Walker at Pike County last year. They use Trott like an extra wide receiver, but he also has a big body to block," Smothers said. "Just when you think you might have Trott contained, Hoyt jumps up and makes a big play."
Smothers said Trinity's potent passing game combined with the Blue Eagles pass defense problems in their last game against Slocomb is a big concern.
"We really struggled with our secondary against Slocomb. That's why I wanted us to play so badly last week against Headland so we could possibly work out some of those problems. Trinity's passing game will be a big test for us," Smothers said.
Trinity's running game does not have one dominant rusher, but it has a couple effective runners with Taylor Hoyt (5-9, 165 lb. sr.) and Matthew Tapley (5-9, 170 lb. sr.). Hoyt leads the Wildcats with 149 yards rushing and has averaged 10.6 yards a carry. Tapley has 144 yards rushing and has gained 6.9 yards per attempt.
"They don't have anybody with great rushing numbers, but they use a rotate a lot of people in and out of the lineup," Smothers said.
While Trinity has averaged 41 points a game through three contests, Smothers said its real strength is its defense and special teams. Defensive end Zack Rolen (6-3, 195 lb. sr.) is the anchor of that defense with a team high 29 tackles and three sacks.
"Trinity's defense is really tough. They often stop a team deep in their own territory and then their offense has a short field. A big plus for Trinity is they have a lot of depth. They play very few players both ways. They've also blocked quite a few punts on special teams," Smothers said.
Smothers admits his team faces an uphill battle Friday.
"We don't have anything to lose. As long as our players go out there and give it everything they have, that is all you can ask," Smothers said.