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McVoy sends Eagles to crushing defeat

By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
Hurt. Proud. Shock.
Those emotions flowed through the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles as they walked off the field. Yet the most important feeling was disappointment.
W.S. Neal kicker Josh Danley made his bid to be the hero when his 22-yard field goal gave the Blue Eagles a 15-13 lead with just 1:50 to go.
Both Danley and his W.S. Neal teammates were upstaged on the game's final play when Straughn's Bobo McVoy booted a 41-yard field goal that gave the visiting Tigers the stunning 16-15 victory.
"Our motto coming into the game was make every play count and we did that. We felt we controlled the game. In the end, we knew McVoy was a dangerous weapon. We knew he could kick it from that distance. We just hoped there might be a bad snap or something that would cause a miss," W.S. Neal coach Shane Smothers said.
Straughn (4-1 in Class 3A Region 1 and 6-1 overall) all but secured a playoff berth with the win. Meanwhile the Blue Eagles (2-3 in Region 1 and 2-5 overall) suffered a big blow to their playoff hopes. W.S. Neal's only path to the postseason is to beat both T.R. Miller and Headland, while Slocomb must lose to both Dale County and Pike County.
In a game dominated by defense and big plays, W.S. Neal came up with the first key moment on its second offensive series of the game.
With the possession apparently stopped at their own 32 with a fourth-and-five, Blue Eagles punter/quarterback/running back Justin Smith caught the Straughn defense by surprise when he picked up 12 yards on a fake punt to get the first down.
Ten plays later and on the first play of the second quarter, running back Mario Daniel dashed in from 10 yards out for the game's first score. W.S. Neal's lead remained 6-0 when Danley's point after attempt was blocked.
Although Straughn had just 45 yards offense in the first half, the Tigers drove into W.S. Neal territory twice in the second quarter only to be turned away at the 44 and later at the 40.
The Blue Eagles' defense dodged their biggest bullet in the game on the opening series of the third quarter. Straughn drove 56 yards over 14 plays all the way to the W.S. Neal three-yard line. On a fourth down and one, Jake Bailey drove back Tigers' quarterback Alphonso Freeney for a four-yard loss that preserved the 6-0 lead.
The poor field position would eventually catch up with the Blue Eagles. After their offense went three and out after the goal line stand, Straughn needed just two plays to go 37 yards. Actually Freeney needed just one play to go 36 yards, as he zigzagged his way through the middle of the field and then to the right for the game-tying touchdown. McVoy's point after kick split the uprights and put Straughn up 7-6 with 33 seconds left in the third quarter.
Daniel nearly erased that lead on the ensuing kickoff when he returned the ball 82 yards all the way to the Straughn eight. That set up Jake Bailey's two-yard touchdown run to the right that put the Blue Eagles back in front 12-7. Justin Smith's two-point incomplete pass attempt kept it at that score.
Special teams mistakes have hurt W.S. Neal all season and a huge one changed the complexion of the game with just under nine minutes to go.
Justin Smith was set to field a punt from McVoy and at the last minute decided to let the ball drop. As the ball rolled, it glanced off Smith and Straughn's Hunter Norris recovered at the W.S. Neal 15.
It turned out to be a costly mistake, as Freeney scored on a three-yard touchdown run four plays later and put the visitors back on top 13-12 with 7:27 left. It remained a one-point margin when Casey Teel was stopped on a two-point run attempt.
Smothers and the Blue Eagles took a huge gamble in their attempt to regain the lead. With still nearly five minutes left and faced with a fourth and four at their own 31, Smothers and Company opted to go for it.
Quarterback Marquis Barskdale launched a pass downfield that glanced off Daniel and a Straughn defender and into the hands of Dewayne Floyd for a 30-yard gain and a first down.
Bailey followed that up with a 27-yard gain that took the ball to the Straughn 12. Three plays later Smothers and the Blue Eagles had another big decision to make when they were faced with a fourth and three at the Straughn five.
On came Danley, whose primary role is to kick. He did not let the huge gathering down, as he hooked it through the uprights from the left hash mark from 22 yards out and put W.S. Neal up 15-13 with 1:50 left.
That proved to be too much time for the Tigers, who started the final drive from their own 28. Freeney had key runs of 13 and 14 yards with a key 15-yard gain by Tyrell Hunter squeezed in between.
Straughn drove to the W.S. Neal 30 when Freeney had his only completion of the game, a six-yard pass to Hunter that took the ball to the 24 with seven seconds left.
On came McVoy, who had more than enough distance on his game-winning kick.
The Blue Eagles will head across Murder Creek and into Brewton Friday for their date with the undefeated Region 1 leaders at Brewton Municipal Stadium. Game time is 7:30 p.m. T.R. Miller took over the Region 1 lead Friday when it rolled past Pike County 52-27.
At W.S. Neal
Straughn 0 0 7 9 – 16
W.S. Neal 0 6 0 9 – 15
W.S. NEAL- Daniel 10 yard run (kick failed)
STRAUGHN- A. Freeney 36 yard run (McVoy kick)
W.S. NEAL- Bailey 2 yard run (pass failed)
STRAUGHN- A. Freeney 3 yard run (run failed)
W.S. NEAL- Danley 22 yard field goal
STRAUGHN- McVoy 41 yard field goal
Stats
First downs: W.S. Neal 8, Straughn 10
Third down conversions: W.S. Neal 1-9, Straughn 2-12
Fourth down conversions: W.S. Neal 3-4, Straughn 2-4
Total yards: W.S. Neal 171 (128 rushing, 43 passing), Straughn 181 (175 rushing, 6 passing)
Individual rushing: W.S. Neal- Daniel 11-52 1TD, Bailey 8-51 1TD, J. Smith 4-17, Roh. Travis 4-12, Barksdale 10-(-4); Straughn- A. Freeney 20-118 2TD, Hunter 7-35, Teel 2-18, Armstrong 2-4, Cottle 3-1, Pettus 1-(-1)
Individual passing: W.S. Neal- Barksdale 4-6-43 1INT; Straughn- A. Freeney 1-11-6
Individual receiving: W.S. Neal- Floyd 2-41, Daniel 1-13, Ron. Travis 1-9; Straughn- Hunter 1-6
Individual punting: W.S. Neal- J. Smith 2-64, 32.0 avg.; Straughn- McVoy 3-126, 42.0 avg.
Penalties: W.S. Neal- 2-8, Straughn 6-55