Shock treatment: Eagles stun Trinity
By By DANIEL HODGE – Sports Writer
If learning by losing is a lesson, the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles certainly learned their lesson well.
The Blue Eagles not only bounced back from a frustrating one-point loss at Headland last week, they did so in stunning fashion when they shocked the Trinity Presbyterian Wildcats 7-6 in Montgomery Friday.
W.S. Neal's victory snapped Trinity's regular season winning streak at 45 games. The Wildcats (4-1 and ranked ninth in Class 4A) had not lost a regular season game since they fell to Tallassee in the final game of the 2000 season.
The Blue Eagles' defense kept a talented Trinity offense from putting up big numbers much like they did against Class 5A power Eufaula back in week one.
W.S. Neal's offensive attack came via the efforts of senior running backs Jake Bailey and Mario Daniel. Their combined attempts accounted for 211 of the 243 total yards the Blue Eagles (2-3) had in the game.
The Blue Eagles obtained the ball after the opening kickoff on their own 31-yard line. On the game's first play from scrimmage, W.S. Neal's offensive line showed it was not going to be pushed around by the big, strong Trinity defensive line when it cleared a hole for Jake Bailey to run 15 yards for a first down to the 46-yard line. The drive soon came to a halt, as the Blue Eagles were forced to punt. Josh Danley's punt sailed 37 yards and bounced out of bounds at the Trinity 11-yard line.
On their first play from scrimmage, Wildcats' all-purpose player Zack Shaw rushed for 42 yards up the middle of the field and down inside Blue Eagle territory. W.S. Neal's defense held strong after the big play, as it had three defensive stops that gave up only four yards. These stops and an offensive holding call led to a Whit Mitchell punt that traveled 34 yards to the Blue Eagle 23-yard line.
W.S. Neal strung together what very well could be its best drive of the season so far on its second offensive series. The Blue Eagles' drive consumed nearly six minutes, as they drove 77yards over 13 plays of against a very talented Wildcat defense.
The key play of the drive came on a fourth down and 12 when Barksdale received the shotgun snap and tossed a laser to Jonathan Alexander for a gain of 24 yards to the Trinity nine-yard line.
The drive was temporarily set back due to an illegal shift penalty that put the ball back at the 13-yard line. Things got back on track when two Bailey rushes moved the ball to the one-yard line where the Blue Eagles faced a third down and goal to go. Barksdale then capped off the drive when he dove across the goal line on a one-yard quarterback sneak. Spencer Williamson's extra point made the score 7-0 with 21 seconds left in the first quarter.
Trinity stormed right back, as it tried to preserve its 45-game regular season winning streak. The Wildcats used a 33-yard kickoff return to get excellent field position at their own 48-yard line.
As he would be all night, Trinity's Shaw was the go-to man when he rushed seven times for 35 yards on this drive alone. The Wildcats converted a key fourth down at the W.S. Neal 27 when Cameron Bell ran for two yards on his only carry of the game to keep the drive alive.
After a Blue Eagle penalty on an incomplete pass by Austin Moriss, the Wildcats were rewarded with a first down at the Blue Eagle 13-yard line. W.S. Neal's defense rallied and denied any further advancement by the Wildcat offense and forced Trinity to attempt a field goal. The snap was perfect, but the 40-yard field goal attempt by Drew Stokley sailed wide left.
After the blown field goal attempt, the Blue Eagles took over possession of the ball on their own 20-yard line in search of another score before halftime. As the clock ticked away, W.S. Neal's offense used 12 plays to take the ball down inside the Wildcat 20-yard line. On third down and one yard to go from the 10-yard line, Barksdale took the snap and pushed his way behind an offensive line that overpowered the Wildcat defense all night for four yards and another Blue Eagle first down at the six-yard line. With less than a minute left in the first half, the Blue Eagles opted to throw the ball. However, the Wildcats' defense stiffened and forced the Blue Eagles to attempt a field goal. The field goal kick by Williamson was blocked by a leaping Penton Shook on the last play of the first half that kept W.S. Neal's advantage at 7-0.
The Blue Eagles' defense, which allowed a stingy 31 second half total yards and a stunning minus 17 rushing yards to go with only four Trinity first downs, continued the second half with the same high level of intensity when it forced the Wildcats to punt after only three plays.
Neither team was able to even gain another first down on its next respective possessions.
After a short Wildcat punt, the Blue Eagles regained possession on its own 43-yard line. A couple of penalties set W.S. Neal back farther into its own territory. On fourth down, Danley came in to punt. The punt had good hang time as it sailed to the 14-yard line where the returner muffed the catch. As the ball caromed out to the 17-yard line, Cal Daniel pounced on top of it and gave the Blue Eagles excellent field position.
W.S. Neal tried to take advantage of the excellent field position with a score that would give it a two-possession lead. After two short runs by Bailey and Mario Daniel, the Blue Eagle offense was confronted with a long third attempt. With Barksdale in the shotgun formation, the snap sailed over his head and all the way back to the 27-yard line. That loss forced the Blue Eagles to attempt another field goal, this one 44 yards. Like the first attempt by Williamson, this one was also blocked by Auburn signee Bart Eddins and returned by Davis Hooper to the W.S. Neal 42-yard line.
Trinity's offense regained possession with about nine minutes left in the final quarter. With its best field position of the night, the Wildcats offense released its passing attack. Morriss had thrown eight passes prior to this drive, none of which were completed. It took the Wildcats five passing plays to get into the endzone. On the fifth pass of the drive, Morriss hit a diving Jacob Jackson in the corner of the endzone for a touchdown. With 7:37 left in the game, the field goal unit lined up for the extra point. Several Blue Eagle defender ripped their way through the offensive line and blocked the kick which kept W.S. Neal on top 7-6.
Trinity had another scoring chance that was wiped away after it ended in a turnover on downs.
The final possession for the Wildcats would prove to be the game winner for either team. Trinity's offense regained possession after a Blue Eagle punt with three minutes left in the game. With the ball on its own 36-yard line, the Wildcat offense needed to string together a drive much like it did when it scored earlier in the quarter. After two incompleted passes and a Blue Eagle tackle in the backfield, the Wildcats needed 14 yards for a first down. The next play Morriss connected with Patrick Craig for a gain of 15 yards and a much needed first down. After another first down as a result of a completed pass to Ryan Mason, the Wildcats were in business with the ball on the Blue Eagle 24-yard line.
Two incompletions and a sack by the defense resulted in the Wildcats in a fourth down and 16 situation. With the clock now under a minute to play, Morriss took the shotgun snap a tossed a pass toward the right sideline only to have it knocked down by a Blue Eagle defensive back. W.S. Neal's defensive stop proved to be enough, as the offense approached the line of scrimmage in the victory formation. Barksdale simply downed the ball and the horn sounded giving the Blue Eagles the win.
W.S. Neal travels to Dale County Friday for a 7 p.m. region game. Dale County (0-5) lost to Rehobeth Friday 27-0.
W.S. Neal 7 0 0 0 – 7
Trinity 0 0 0 6 – 6
W.S. NEAL- Barksdale 1 yard run (Williamson kick)
TRINITY- Jackson 13 yard pass from Morriss (kick failed)
First downs: W.S. Neal 13, Trinity 7
Third down conversions: W.S. Neal 6-12, Trinity 2-9
Fourth down conversions: W.S. Neal 1-1, Trinity 2-2
Total yards: W.S. Neal 243 (171 rushing, 72 passing), Trinity 179 (84 rushing, 95 passing)
Individual rushing: W.S. Neal- Bailey 21-87, M. Daniel 13-82, Barksdale 10-5 1TD, Floyd 1-(-3); Trinity- Shaw 14-94, Hooper 1-2, Bell 1-2, Morriss 5-(-14)
Individual passing: W.S. Neal- Barksdale 6-10-72; Trinity- Morriss 6-21-95
Individual receiving: W.S. Neal- Bailey 2-33, Alexander 2-25, M. Daniel 1-9, Floyd 1-5; Trinity- Mason 2-38, Craig 1-15, Shaw 1-15, Teal 1-14, Jackson 1-13 1TD
Individual punting: W.S. Neal- Danley 5-163, 32.6 avg.; Trinity- Mitchell 4-129, 31.3 avg.
Penalties: W.S. Neal 10-77, Trinity 9-75
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