Eagles look for two in a row at Headland
By By BRUCE HIXON – Sports Editor
Last week the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles overcame some big odds when they beat Slocomb.
This week W.S. Neal would like to make the odds a lot smaller when it travels to Headland Friday for a 7 p.m. Class 3A Region 1 matchup with the Rams.
The Blue Eagles (1-2 overall and 1-1 in Region 1) were able to notch their first win for both themselves and first-year head coach Blaine Hathcock when overcame six turnovers in their 27-20 win over the Red Tops.
Turnovers as well as a 14-0 deficit were not the only thing W.S. Neal overcame in that game. It could have been a very costly victory from a health standpoint. Senior running back/defensive back Ronald Travis injured his knee on W.S. Neal's first offensive series. Junior quarterback Marquis Barksdale suffered a concussion and missed the last couple of offensive series. Junior linebacker Bobby Freeman sat out Friday's game with a separated shoulder.
The Blue Eagles are facing a Headland team that has shown some big steps in the right direction after a winless 2004 campaign. The Rams (1-2 overall and 0-2 in region play) knocked off Miller County (Ga.) 45-20 in week one and suffered a narrow 13-6 region opener loss to Slocomb. Last week Headland joined what may be a long list of teams to be pounded by Pike County when they were blasted by the Bulldogs 61-0. Five of Pike County's touchdowns in that game came on plays 55 yards or longer.
The Blue Eagles need no farther than to go back to last year's encounter to see what Headland is capable of doing. In that game, the Rams led most of the contest before W.S. Neal rallied in the closing moments for a 26-22 win.
Headland has been able to build its lineup around a solid nucleus of returning starters. The Rams return quarterback Justin Thomas (5-9, 175 lb. jr.), fullback Michael Rhodes (5-10, 250 lb. sr.) and running back Anthony Smith (6-2, 185 lb. sr.). They also return three starting linemen, which include Logan Alvis (5-9, 230 lb. soph.), Justin Slater (5-10, 190 lb. jr.) and Jarius Robinson (5-10, 200 lb. jr.). That list of returning players does not even include who has probably been the Rams' biggest playmaker so far, sophomore running back Charles Reeves. Reeves has rushed for 259 yards in three games.
W.S. Neal's 358 yards of offense against Slocomb were by far its highest output of the season. Mario Daniel accounted for 209 of those yards through rushing (127) and receiving (82).