Stiff challenge awaits Eagles Friday at Eufaula

Published 3:52 pm Wednesday, August 24, 2005

By By BRUCE HIXON-Sports Editor
Life is not perfect so why should sports be any different.
Telling a team they have to play a perfect game in order to win is pretty much telling them they are going to lose because perfection is not going to happen.
While the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles may not have to play a perfect game to win Friday's 7 p.m. season opener at Eufaula, they do know they will have to be at the top of their game and limit their mistakes if they are to have any chance of knocking
off the Tigers on their home
Self-inflicted mistakes and big plays are what powered the Tigers to a 43-13 win over W.S. Neal last season in East Brewton.
In that game, Eufaula got an 81-yard kickoff return on the game's first play, a 58-yard fumble recovery return for a touchdown on the game's last play plus a punt return and interception for touchdowns among its scores in between.
Eufaula eventually finished 6-5 last season, 4-3 in Class 5A Region 2. That included a 30-0 loss to McAdory in the opening round of the playoffs.
If one exhibition game tells anything, Eufaula is ready to return to its usual status as one of the state's top teams in Class 5A this season. The Tigers knocked off a Central-Phenix City team that is ranked eighth in the state in Class 6A 21-14 in a preseason game last Thursday.
Experience is one thing Eufaula has on its side. The Tigers have 42 juniors and seniors (23 juniors and 19 seniors) on their roster.
Another trend Eufaula showed against Central-Phenix City was to keep the ball on the ground. The Tigers racked up 226 yards rushing during the first three quarters when their starting unit and top reserves were in the game.
Fullback Deon Steele (5-9, 175 lb. sr.) muscled his way for 88 yards on just eight carries with one score. Tailback Chris Williams (5-9, 165 lb. soph.) actually came in and led Eufaula in rushing with 96 yards on only five carries.
Eufaula has switched quarterbacks this season. Last year's signal caller, Maurice Jackson (5-9, 156 lb. sr.), has been moved to wide receiver in favor of Jerrell Jernigan (5-10, 169 lb. jr.). However, Jackson showed he could still be effective through the air, as he completed a 46-yard completion to Jernigan.
Meanwhile the Blue Eagles will try to continue to build from their 27-18 exhibition win at Hillcrest last Friday.
Barksdale was six-for-10 for 100 yards with no interceptions. Those six completions went to five different receivers (Dewayne Floyd, Jonathan Alexander, Keith Weaver, Mario Daniel and Justin Howard). The quartet of Bailey, Daniel and Rohin and Ronld Travis picked up a combined 189 yards rushing on just 13 carries, an
average of 14.5 yards per attempt.