The math is simple: win and Eagles are in
By By BRUCE HIXON – Sports Editor
These days W.S. Neal Blue Eagles coach Blaine Hathcock has gone into the record business.
Broken record, that is.
Hathcock is uttering the same words about his team's game at Straughn Friday as he did about last week's game against Abbeville and the game against Dale County the week before.
Three straight wins overall including back-to-back region wins over Dale County and last week's 48-6 thumping of Abbeville have indeed made Friday's road trip to Straughn the biggest game of the year.
The math is simple. If the Blue Eagles (4-3 overall and 3-2 in Class 3A Region 1) defeat Straughn Friday, they will nail down a spot in the playoffs. In fact, W.S. Neal is in a position where if it wins its last two region games, Straughn this Friday and T.R. Miller next week, the Blue Eagles would jump all the way into the number two seed for Region 1 and land the first-round home playoff game that goes with it.
The Blue Eagles are catching Straughn at a time where the Tigers may be the hottest team in the region outside of unbeaten Pike County. Since it started the season 0-2 with losses to Andalusia and T.R. Miller, Straughn (5-2 overall and 4-1 in region play) has bounced back with five straight wins. The most recent was last week's 24-0 victory over Slocomb. That win kept the Tigers tied with T.R. Miller for second place in Region 1, one game behind Pike County and one game ahead of W.S. Neal.
On the flip side, Straughn has taken advantage of its schedule to get hot. The combined record of the teams the Tigers have beaten (Abbeville, Headland, Dale County, Opp and Slocomb) during their current streak is 8-27.
Straughn's ground game revolves around the combination of Alphonso Freeney (6-1, 215 lb. sr.), Justin Freeney (5-9, 150 lb. jr.), Josh Pettus (5-10, 175 lb. jr.) and DeAndrea Lee (5-10, 165 lb. sr.).
Straughn moved Ryne Taylor (6-1, 160 lb. fresh.) and son of head coach Trent Taylor into the quarterback position early in the season and kept him there.
An emerging weapon for Straughn in recent weeks has been kicker Blake Jackson.
It was kicking last year that enabled Straughn to beat W.S. Neal 16-15 when Tigers kicker Bobo McVoy booted a 41-yard field goal on the last play of the game. That loss eventually kept W.S. Neal from the postseason field.