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Curtain comes down on Eagles campaign at Southern Choctaw

By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
It began as a season with high hopes and promise. Instead the 2004 W.S. Neal Blue Eagles football campaign has been one full of "what if," "could have" and "should have."
It all comes to an end Friday when the Blue Eagles close out the season with a non-region road date against the Southern Choctaw Indians. Game time is 7 p.m.
"We didn't accomplish what we wanted in terms of record, but we do have a chance to finish with back-to-back wins and four wins in our last six games. That would be a good way for us to go into the offseason," W.S. Neal coach Shane Smothers said.
The last test for the Blue Eagles in 2004 is a tough one. Southern Choctaw grabbed a three-way share of the Class 2A Region 1 championship with Leroy and Red Level, as all three posted 6-1 records. The Indians (8-1 overall) suffered both their only region loss and season loss when they fell to Red Level 14-6.
Southern Choctaw has compiled its mark despite the fact the Indians have a very young roster. Southern Choctaw has only five seniors and six juniors. Most of the Indians starting lineup comes from their 12 sophomores.
"Southern Choctaw probably doesn't have the depth like we saw with T.R. Miller in Class 3A and Trinity Presbyterian in Class 4A. With those programs, their number twos are probably as good as their number ones. However, Southern Choctaw's number one unit is very good.
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We'll have to be at the top of our game in order to win," Smothers said.
The Indians, who downed Excel 28-14 in their most recent outing, have a talented backfield with quarterback Brandon McGhee (5-10, 162 lb. jr.) and running backs Shannon Dozier (5-6, 161 lb. soph.), Marty Frost (5-8, 151 lb. soph.) and Johnny Williamson (5-7, 169 lb. sr.).
"They're all dangerous backs with a lot of speed. Southern Choctaw relies mostly on the run. They might pass eight to 10 times a game, but when they do pass they set it up with their running game. In that respect, they play a lot like Slocomb did against us," Smothers said.
One of the Indians flaws may be in their rushing defense. Two weeks ago Washington County running back Timothy Hicks scorched the Southern Choctaw defense for 252 yards with two touchdowns. However, Southern Choctaw still rolled to an easy 41-15 win.
The rush defense may open up the opportunity for another big game by W.S. Neal running back Mario Daniel. Daniel posted by far his best high school game in Friday's 26-22 win over Headland with 279 yards and four touchdowns.
"A lot of people don't know Mario actually hurt his shoulder in the first half against Headland. We didn't know if he would be available in that second half. He said he could go and he put on quite a show (246 yards in the second half," Smothers said. "We'll obviously need to run the ball well, but we'll also have to throw the ball."
Friday's game marks the last for W.S. Neal seniors Ron Dexter, Chad McCall, Daniel Hodge, Brennan Beasley, Brandon Douglas, Shon Biddle, Drew Hester, Ben Crane, Cory Freeman, Markell Marshall, Brandon Gantt, Deric Smith, Terrell Sanders and Heath Stewart.
"We've told the seniors to go out and make the most out of this week, have a good time with their teammates and coaches and set a good example for the underclassmen," Smothers said. "We want to give our seniors one final chance to play, but we'll also spot some of our younger players into the lineup so we can give them some experience."