Eagles surprise Southern Choctaw
By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
When Southern Choctaw's Marty Frost scored with just over two minutes to go and gave the Indians their first lead of the night, it could have been a fitting way to end a frustrating season for the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles.
Instead for the second week in a row the Blue Eagles used some late magic to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
A week ago it was Mario Daniel's 59-yard touchdown run on a fourth down play with 1:22 that gave W.S. Neal a 26-22 win over Headland.
In Friday's season finale at Silas, quarterback Marquis Barksdale hooked up with Johnathan Alexander with a 71-yard touchdown with 1:53 left that gave the Blue Eagles a stunning 27-24 victory over the ninth ranked team in the state in Class 2A.
"When they took the lead, it knocked the wind out of out sail. However, our players didn't give up. Johnathan got so wide open on that touchdown reception that we were afraid he might drop the ball. Sometimes the easiest catches are the hardest catches," W.S. Neal coach Shane Smothers said. "This one was for our seniors. It was for Chason Godbolt (a member of last year's team who was killed in a car accident last spring). It was also for (assistant coach) Marvel Davis. This was his last game with our program."
The strategy the teams used did not reflect on their respective records. Southern Choctaw (8-2) played like the team with nothing to lose in its season finale, as it used two fake punts, went for it on fourth down seven times including once on its own 30-yard line in the first half, and went for the two-point conversion after three of its four scores.
Meanwhile W.S. Neal (4-6) used a balance of run (189 yards) and pass (144 yards) that kept the Indians off balance most of the night.
While it was a Barksdale-to-Alexander connection that won the game for W.S. Neal in the final two minutes, it was the same tandem that gave the Blue Eagles their original lead early in the second quarter. This one was a 22-yard scoring strike that broke up a scoreless game. Josh Danley's point after kick extended the lead to 7-0 with 10:35 left in the first half.
Southern Choctaw answered back when Terrance McLaughlin scored on a 16-yard reverse sweep with 2:03 left in the first half. In what turned out to be the difference in the game, the Indians failed to make any of their four conversion attempts. The first one was denied when Shannon Dozier fumbled just before reaching the
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goal line. That stop kept W.S. Neal ahead 7-6.
It was not just at the end of the game where Barksdale performed his late magic. The sophomore quarterback also orchestrated a scoring drive in the waning moments of the first half.
First, Barksdale threw completions of seven and 44 yards to Ben Crane that put W.S. Neal in scoring position. Three plays later Barksdale dropped back to pass, then raced up through the middle and then to the left on an 11-yard touchdown run with 36 ticks left in the first half. Danley's PAT gave the Blue Eagles a 14-6 lead.
After what may have arguably been their best first half of the season, W.S. Neal quickly lost that momentum when they fumbled on the first play from scrimmage in the second half.
The turnover was converted into a 23-yard touchdown run by Frost, the first of three scores he had on the night. Frost was stopped on a two-point run attempt that kept the Blue Eagles still ahead 14-12.
W.S. Neal answered right back with a sharp dagger to Southern Choctaw's comeback hopes. First, Jake Bailey picked up a 29-yard gain. Then Daniel, who had 279 yards rushing in last week's win, broke loose on a 39-yard touchdown run with 6:34 left in the third quarter.
An unsportsmanlike penalty forced Danley to have to attempt his conversion kick from the 18 instead of the three, but he still came through. It was a key kick, as it gave W.S. Neal a two-possession lead of 21-12.
That advantage quickly melted down the stretch in the fourth quarter. Frost scored on a 37-yard run with 6:53 left that brought Southern Choctaw within 21-18. Once again the conversion failed, this one on a kick attempt by Brigham Young.
After a three-and-out series by the W.S. Neal offense, the Indians quickly went 34 yards and took the lead on Frost's five-yard touchdown run with 2:14 left.
Suddenly down 24-21, it took just one play for the Blue Eagles to get the lead back. Barksdale scrambled to his right and then found a wide open Alexander just past midfield. Alexander then won the game-winning dash to the endzone. A missed conversion kick by Danley kept the W.S. Neal at 27-24.
"Marquis really showed a lot of composure throughout the game and that's something we've been trying to work with him. It's just a great way for us to end the season. Southern Choctaw was playing for a number one seed for the playoffs (the Indians tied for first in Class 2A Region 1 with Red Level and Leroy) and we denied them that. If there is a good thing about being done now, it is we can now start to get ready for next year. We're going to work extra hard because we don't want this (4-6) to happen again."
At Southern Choctaw
W.S. Neal 0 14 7 6 – 27
So. Choctaw 0 6 6 12 – 24
W.S. NEAL- Alexander 22 yard pass from Barksdale (Danley kick)
SOUTHERN CHOCTAW- McLaughlin 16 yard run (run failed)
W.S. NEAL- Barksdale 11 yard run (Danley kick)
SOUTHERN CHOCTAW- Frost 23 yard run (run failed)
W.S. NEAL- Daniel 39 yard run (Danley kick)
SOUTHERN CHOCTAW- Frost 37 yard run (kick failed)
SOUTHERN CHOCTAW- Frost 5 yard run (pass failed)
W.S. NEAL- Alexander 71 yard pass from Barksdale (kick failed)
First downs: W.S. Neal 8, Southern Choctaw 13
Third down conversions: W.S. Neal- 0-4, Southern Choctaw 2-8
Fourth down conversions: W.S. Neal 1-1, Southern Choctaw 5-7
Total yards: W.S. Neal- 333 (189 rushing, 144 passing), Southern Choctaw- 336 (336 rushing, 0 passing)
Individual rushing: W.S. Neal- Bailey 14-97, Daniel 6-59 1TD, Barksdale 3-21 1TD, Ron. Travis 3-10, Roh. Travis 1-2; Southern Choctaw- Foster 16-111, Frost 11-98 3TD, Dozier 11-52, McGhee 5-45, McLaughlin 2-19 1TD, Pascley 2-12, Thornton 1-(-1)
Individual passing: W.S. Neal- Barksdale 4-8-144 2TD; Southern Choctaw- McGhee 0-2-0, Gibson 0-4-0
Individual receiving: W.S. Neal- Alexander 2-93 2TD, Crane 2-51; Southern Choctaw- none
Individual punting: W.S. Neal- Hodge 4-96, 24.0 avg.; Southern Choctaw- Gibson 1-30, 30.0 avg.
Penalties: W.S. Neal- 8-57, Southern Choctaw- 5-35