Eagles try to end season on high note
By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
When the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles lost to T.R. Miller last Friday, it not only knocked them out of the playoffs but it started a two-week clock for the remainder of their season.
Actually that clock now reads just nine days.
W.S. Neal has two chances to build some positive momentum for the offseason, this Friday's 7:30 p.m. Homecoming game against the Headland Rams and next Friday's season finale at Southern Choctaw.
"It's a big disappointment to know we won't be in the playoffs. I feel bad for our players because they've worked so hard this season. You could never tell by the way they've prepared this season that they are 2-6," Smothers said.
Now that they know their season ends next week, Smothers said his staff will have a little different approach in the final two games.
"Our number one goal is still to win these two games. At the same time, we're going to give our younger players more playing time. We're not pushing our seniors aside. They've done too much for us to do that. However, we do want to get our younger players some experience headed into next season," Smothers said. "The way we play may also be a little different. We might take some chances we would not normally take."
The Blue Eagles (2-4 in Class 3A Region 1, 2-6 overall) were originally supposed to have hosted Headland back on September 17, but that game was postponed due to Hurricane Ivan.
Considering Headland is now 0-6 in region and 0-8 overall after Friday's 19-7 loss to Abbeville, W.S. Neal probably needed to see the Rams at the original time.
"Looking back, I wish we had played the Headland game back then. We were 0-3 and struggling. If we had played and beaten Headland at that time, it would have given us some momentum for Trinity. Would it have changed our season? I don't know," Smothers said.
The Rams, who have struggled
See EAGLES Page 7A
to score points all season, probably had their best game last week against Abbeville. The Rams led 7-0 at halftime in that game and did not allow Abbeville to get a single first down. The Yellow Jackets rallied with 19 unanswered points in the second half.
"Abbeville is an emotional game for Headland like (T.R.) Miller is for us so we're both coming off emotional downers. Headland is a young team. They only have six seniors, but it is probably their lack of size as much as experience that has hurt them this season," Smothers said. "Injuries have also hurt them. Headland was in a wing-T offense earlier. They had an injury to one of their lineman and they had to move their tight end (Jermony Rhodes) to the line and you can't run a true wing-t offense without the tight end," Smothers said.
Headland switched quarterbacks from Chris Jackson (6-2, 190 lb. sr.) to Justin Thomas (5-10, 170 lb. soph.) midway through the season. Terry Fields (6-5, 200 lb. jr.) has become the favorite target.
"Fields is a good player. He is obviously big and he runs well," Smothers said.
When the season ends, special teams play figures to be one of the Blue Eagles' top areas to address in the offseason. W.S. Neal lost an onsides kick, had a punt attempt botched for a safety and a kick return that resulted in another safety against T.R. Miller.
"Just when it seems we've made every possible mistake on special teams, we come up with something new. We've had just about everything this season from kick coverage to fielding onsides kicks, kick returns to blocked extra points," Smothers said.