Eagles have a home, sweet home(coming)
By By DANIEL HODGE – Sports Writer
Homecoming festivities can be entertaining for different people, but for the football team it can be a bit of a distraction.
The W.S. Neal Blue Eagles were able to put those distractions aside and made Homecoming at the school a success Friday when they rolled to a 48-6 win over the Abbeville Yellow Jackets.
W.S. Neal (4-3 overall and 3-2 in Class 3A region 1) controlled every aspect of the game from the opening kickoff until the final gun. The Blue Eagles racked up 473 total yards of offense, while their defense limited Abbeville (2-5 overall and 1-4 in region play) to just 182.
Not only did the offense run at top gear, but the defense played strong for the third straight week with seven sacks and three interceptions. Each of the turnovers resulted in scores.
After a short return of the opening kickoff, the Yellow Jackets began their first possession on their own 29-yard line. Following a first down run and two more rushes for a combined one-yard loss, Abbeville was faced with a long third down attempt. Yellow Jackets quarterback D.J. Wiggins dropped back into the pocket and tossed a pass that was intercepted by Jonathan Alexander and returned to the Abbeville 35-yard line.
The Blue Eagles' offense went right to work, as Mario Daniel took the handoff and ran 35 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the possession. Spencer Williamson's extra point moved W.S. Neal's lead to 7-0 with 8:40 left in the first quarter.
Abbeville threatened to answer on the ensuing possession, as it drove all the way to the W.S. Neal 27-yard line where the Blue Eagles' defense stiffened and stopped the Yellow Jackets on downs.
With the ball on its own 27-yard line, W.S. Neal strung together its best drive of the night when it marched 73 yards over 10 plays for its second score. Jake Bailey capped off the five-minute drive with a two-yard touchdown run with just over two minutes left in the first quarter. Williamson's extra point was good and extended the home team's lead to 14-0.
After the kickoff sailed out of bounds, the Yellow Jackets regained possession of the ball on their own 35-yard line. Three incomplete passes resulted in a punt situation. Wiggins' punt went out of bounds for a total of 11 yards.
The defensive stop combined with the short punt put the W.S. Neal offense back in business. On the drive's first play, Mario Daniel broke loose from a defender for a 10-yard gain and a first down. Seven plays later, the Blue Eagles reached the endzone for the third time when Daniel finished where he left off with a three-yard touchdown run. That score extended W.S. Neal's lead to 20-0 with 9:15 left in the first half although it stayed there when Williamson's PAT was no good.
The Yellow Jackets, who dropped their fifth straight decision after a 2-0 start, reclaimed the football on its own 35-yard line after a second Blue Eagle kickoff landed out of bounds. Two rushes for a combined five yards set up a third down and five situation. At that point, the Abbeville offense went to the air where Wiggins' pass was under thrown and intercepted by Wayne Mitchell and returned to the Yellow Jackets' 48-yard line.
The W.S. Neal offense looked determined to take advantage of another Yellow Jacket turnover with its fourth score in as many possessions. The key to the drive came on a fourth down when Keith Weaver made an acrobatic catch of a Marquis Barksdale pass at the five-yard line. On the next play, Bailey took the handoff and barreled his way into the endzone for a touchdown. A two-point conversion run by Barksdale was successful and moved the Blue Eagle lead to 28-0 with 5:43 left in the second quarter.
W.S. Neal picked up right it where it left off on the opening series of the second half with its fifth straight touchdown. A huge run by Barksdale on third down had the Blue Eagles positioned on the Yellow Jacket 38-yard line. Three plays later it was Bailey who converted another third down situation with a four-yard run. Bailey was again handed the ball and scampered 25 yards for a touchdown on what seemed to be the decisive blow in the game. Josh Danley's extra point was good and moved the score to 35-0 with 8:23 left in the third quarter.
It did not take long for the Blue Eagles to get a chance to add a little more icing to the cake. One play after Wiggins returned the ensuing kickoff to the Abbeville 38, he threw a pass downfield that was deflected and then intercepted by Alexander. Wiggins' interception was his third of the night and the second caught by Alexander.
After the interception was returned to the 23-yard line, Hathcock went to this bench and gave his freshmen some varsity work. Following two carries by Nate Sheffield, the Blue Eagles were confronted with a third down and six to go for a first down. On third down, backup quarterback Taylor Cash ran around the right end and dove into the end zone for an 11-yard score. Danley's PAT attempt was split the uprights and moved the Blue Eagles' lead to 42-0.
Another defensive stop and short punt by the Yellow Jackets gave W.S. Neal yet another opportunity to add to its total. The Blue Eagles reserves, who got the ball at the Abbeville 44-yard line, began to drive down the field against a frustrated Yellow Jackets' defense. Four Sheffield carries for 30 yards resulted in a first down from just inside the Abbeville 15-yard line. Just as it seemed that the Blue Eagles' offense was about to take advantage of yet another Yellow Jacket miscue, all hopes were thrown out as the handoff from Cash to Sheffield was fumbled and recovered by the visitors at their own nine-yard line.
Abbeville was unable to do anything with the Blue Eagle fumble and was stopped on a fourth down attempt.
W.S. Neal regained the football at midfield as the fourth quarter began. Once again the Blue Eagles' offense dominated its defensive counterpart, as it needed only six plays to score its final points of the night. Rushes by Mitchell, Cash, and Sheffield moved the football down to the seven-yard line. On second down and goal, Mitchell received the handoff and ran seven yards for a touchdown. Danley's extra point attempt was no good and left the score 48-0 with nine minutes left.
Abbeville's final possession proved to be its best of the night, as it resulted in its only score and spoiled the Blue Eagles bid for a homecoming shutout. Seven plays after it took over on its own 45-yard line, the Yellow Jackets faithful finally had something to cheer when Wiggins ran two yards for a touchdown. Wiggins' extra point attempt was blocked by a host of W.S. Neal defenders and kept the score 48-6 with 5:40 left in the game.
The Blue Eagle offense had another chance to add to its lead when it had the ball inside the Yellow Jacket five-yard line. They instead opted to down the football and preserve the win.
W.S. Neal will be on the road this Friday when it travels to Straughn for a key region game. Game time is 7 p.m. Straughn currently sits one game ahead of the Blue Eagles and in a second place tie with T.R. Miller in the region standings. After an 0-2 start to the season, the Tigers won their fifth straight game Friday when they blanked Slocomb 24-0.
The Blue Eagles need to win one of their final two games, Straughn or T.R. Miller, to qualify for the playoffs. One Slocomb loss in its final two games against Abbeville and Dale County will also get W.S. Neal into the postseason field.
At W.S. Neal
Abbeville 0 0 0 6 – 6
W.S. Neal 14 14 14 6 – 48
W.S. NEAL- M. Daniel 35 yard run (Williamson kick)
W.S. NEAL- Bailey 2 yard run (Williamson kick)
W.S. NEAL- M. Daniel 3 yard run (kick failed)
W.S. NEAL- Bailey 5 yard run (Barksdale run)
W.S. NEAL- Bailey 25 yard run (Danley kick)
W.S. NEAL- Cash 8 yard run (Danley kick)
W.S. NEAL- Mitchell 7 yard run (kick failed)
ABBEVILLE- Wiggins 2 yard run (kick failed)
First downs: W.S. Neal 25, Abbeville 8
Third down conversions: W.S. Neal 4-5, Abbeville 3-10
Fourth down conversions: W.S. Neal 2-2, Abbeville 0-3
Total yards: W.S. Neal 473 (424 rushing, 49 passing), Abbeville 182 (37 rushing, 145 passing)
Individual rushing: W.S. Neal- M. Daniel 16-111 2TD, Bailey 10-89 3TD, Sheffield 11-80, Barksdale 5-61, Mitchell 4-59 1TD, Cash 8-24 1TD; Abbeville- Cotton 9-49, Wiggins 11-(-12)
Individual passing: W.S. Neal- Barksdale 4-6-49 1INT; Abbeville- Wiggins 8-23-145 3INT
Individual receiving: W.S. Neal- Weaver 1-26, Floyd 1-13, M. Daniel 1-10, Bailey 1-0; Abbeville- Knight 6-117, Owens 1-21, Laster 1-7
Individual punting: W.S. Neal- none; Abbeville- Wiggins 3-73, 24.3 avg.
Penalties: W.S. Neal 4-25, Abbeville 6-46