Pike County runs past Eagles in region opener
By By DANIEL HODGE – Sports Writer
Even though the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles dropped their season opener at Eufaula, the 10-7 loss to a powerful Class 5A program provided a lot of positive feedback.
Some of that encouragement the opening week of play provided was dimmed by Friday's 34-7 home field loss to a Pike County Bulldogs squad that entered the game ranked third in the state in Class 3A.
The Blue Eagles entered the contest expecting the Bulldogs' rushing attack to develop some big plays.
The Bulldogs (2-0 overall and 1-0 in Region 1) erupted for 426 yards of total offense with nearly half (211) coming from the legs of quarterback/halfback James Jackson. On his first two carries, Jackson ran for 111 yards to go with touchdown runs of 48 and 63 yards respectively.
Failure to prevent the big play was not the only woe for the Blue Eagles (0-2 overall and 0-1 in Region 1). For the second week in a row, a veteran defensive unit stunned the Blue Eagles' offense attack. In fact, W.S. Neal managed only 155 total yards of offense.
Pike County wasted no time getting things started. On their opening drive, the Bulldogs needed only four plays to get on the scoreboard. Three Darrell Reynolds rushes set up Jackson's 48 yard touchdown run. Jarmon Barrow's extra point attempt sailed through the uprights to make the score 7-0 with 9:56 remaining in the first quarter.
The Blue Eagle offense was unable to get anything going on its opening drive. After a Josh Danley punt, the Bulldogs took over on their own 37-yard line. On the game's very next play, Jackson showed off his speed again when he scampered 63 yards for yet another score. The Barrow PAT made the score 14-0 with 7:35 left in the first quarter.
On the next two Pike County possessions, the Blue Eagle defense appeared to settle down after a very shaky start. Perhaps its biggest play came when a host of W.S. Neal players stopped Barrow in the backfield on a key fourth down attempt inside the Blue Eagle 20-yard line.
W.S. Neal's offense started its final drive of the first half in search of some answers. Having generated only 50 total yards at that point, it would need much more to keep up with a potent Pike County attack.
On two key third downs, quarterback Marquis Barksdale hit Mario Daniel for a 21-yard strike down the right sideline after he connected with Ronald Travis for 21 more yards. A Barksdale 43-yard touchdown pass to Jonathan Alexander highlighted the most impressive drive for the Blue Eagles. Spencer Williamson's conversion kick was good and left the score 14-7 with just over a minute left in the first half.
Pike County continued its explosiveness into the second half. The Bulldogs needed only five plays to go 50 yards. Reynolds was the go-to guy, as he picked up 40 of the yards on three carries. The drive was capped off when he dashed around the left end for a 29-yard touchdown. Barrow's successful PAT extended the score to 21-7 with 7:54 remaining in the third quarter.
W.S. Neal's defense tried to provide a spark later in the third quarter when Ronald Travis intercepted a pass from quarterback Blake Beacham, but the Blue Eagles offense was forced to punt after three plays.
Just before the end of the third period, Pike County acquired its best field position of the night after a short W.S. Neal punt. Starting from the Blue Eagle 37-yard line, the Bulldogs needed little time to strike again. This time on a second down, Jackson tore his way through the W.S. Neal defense for a 36-yard touchdown run. Both a bad snap and hold resulted in a failed extra point attempt. Jackson's score stretched Pike County's lead to 27-7 with two minutes left in the third quarter.
The Blue Eagle offense continued to struggle and would be forced to punt deep in its own territory on its next two possessions.
With 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter and starting from its own 30 yard line, the Blue Eagle offense needed to assemble a quick drive in order to keep within fighting distance. On the first play, tailback Ronald Travis was stripped of the ball. Pike County defensive lineman Juilus Senn scooped up the ball and ran 27 yards for a touchdown. Barrow's extra point soared through the goalposts and widened the score to 34-7 with 9:10 left in the game.
On the ensuing drive, the Blue Eagles marched down the field with the help of two short third downs conversions, several quick passes and a defensive pass interference call. With 4:57 left in the final quarter, W.S. Neal faced a tough fourth down situation. Barksdale's pass sailed incomplete and the Bulldogs took over on downs on its own 16 yard line. From this position, the Bulldogs kept the ball on the ground and ran out the clock.
The Blue Eagles play at home next week against Region 1 opponent Slocomb. Slocomb (2-0) won its region opener Friday, as it knocked off Headland 13-6.
At W.S. Neal
Pike County 14 0 13 7 – 34
W.S. Neal 0 7 0 0 – 7
PIKE COUNTY- Jackson 48 yard. run (Barrow kick)
PIKE COUNTY- Jackson 63 yard run (Barrow kick)
W.S. NEAL- Barksdale 43 yard pass to Alexander (Williamson kick)
PIKE COUNTY- Reynolds 29 yard run (Barrow kick)
PIKE COUNTY- Jackson 36 yard run (kick failed)
PIKE COUNTY- Senn 27 yard fumble recovery return (Barrow kick)
First Downs: W.S. Neal 10, Pike County 12
Third Down Conversions: W.S. Neal 4-12, Pike County 4-8
Fourth Down Conversions: W.S. Neal 1-2, Pike County 1-2
Total Yards: W.S. Neal 155 (-5 rushing, 160 passing); Pike County 429 (406 rushing, 23 passing)
Individual rushing: W.S. Neal- M. Daniel 9-15, Bailey 3-3, Floyd 1-(-2), Ron. Travis 1-(-2), Barksdale 11-(-19); Pike County- Jackson 14-211 3TD, Reynolds 15-80 1TD, Foster 5-60, Barrow 7-44, Beacham 3-11
Individual passing: W.S. Neal- Barksdale 12-23-160 1TD; Pike County- Beacham 1-5-23
Individual receiving: W.S. Neal- Alexander 4-68 1TD, M. Daniel 4-39, Ron Travis 1-22, Weaver 2-18, Howard 1-13; Pike County- Jackson 1-23
Individual punting: W.S. Neal- Danley 5-119 23.8 avg.; Pike County- Bennett 2-68 34.0 avg.
Penalties: W. S. Neal 3-20; Pike County 7-59