Eagles now in spoiler role for regular season finale
By By BRUCE HIXON – Sports Editor
One by one the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles have had their preseason aspirations dashed.
No winning season. No playoff berth. No ending a decade of frustration against arch rival T.R. Miller.
In fact, all three of those goals went out the window last Friday when the Blue Eagles dropped a 34-22 decision to their Murder Creek rival.
At the top of the revised goal list is playing the role of spoiler and finishing the season with a break even record. The Blue Eagles (4-5) will have a chance to do both when they close out the 2005 campaign Friday at 7 p.m. at home against the Southern Choctaw Indians.
All Southern Choctaw has done so far this season is move to the top of the state's Class 2A rankings, post a 9-0 record and outscore its opponents 357-95.
The closest any team has come to beating Southern Choctaw this season has been Red Level, which lost 26-7. The Indians most impressive victory this season came two weeks ago when it blanked at that time top ranked Leroy 20-0. That victory not only propelled Southern Choctaw to the top of the Class 2A rankings, but also its Region 1 championship.
There is one thing on W.S. Neal's side, history. A year ago the Blue Eagles also had a 4-5 record when they took on an 8-1 Southern Choctaw team in the regular season finale and the Blue Eagles left Silas with a surprising 27-24 victory.
The Indians have perhaps the best individual player W.S. Neal has faced this season with running back John Pascley (5-9, 180 lb. sr.). Pascley has rushed for 1,200 yards and along with running back Marty Frost (5-8, 155 lb. jr.) has been clocked at 4.4 in the 40-meter dash. Pascley has a dozen runs this season of at least 50 yards. Shannon Dozier (5-6, 165 lb. jr.) is also a key cog among the running backs.
Last year the Indians were pretty one-dimensional. In fact, Southern Choctaw did not complete a pass in last year's game against the Blue Eagles. Since then the Indians have switched quarterbacks, as preceding signal caller Brandon McGhee (5-10, 162 lb. sr.) has been replaced by Skylar Gibson (6-1, 190 lb. jr.).
Speaking of throwing, Blue Eagles quarterback Marquis Barksdale achieved a personal milestone against T.R. Miller, as he topped 1,000 passing yards for the season. Barksdale has completed 57 percent of his attempts this season (79-for-139) for 1,115 yards.
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for Marquis. He has improved as much as any player as I've been around and I've been around a lot of quarterbacks over the years,” Hathcock said. “One thing Marquis is doing now that he wasn't do a lot of earlier in the year is he is making a lot of plays with his legs as well as his throwing arm.”
Friday's game marks the end of the high school road for 13 W.S. Neal seniors. That list includes Jake Bailey, Mario Daniel, Dewayne Floyd, Josh Danley, Ronald Travis, Jimmie Jones, Rohin Travis, Spencer Williamson, Cal Daniel, Jamie Green, Greg Minchew, Allen Dunn and Keith Weaver.
Despite the fact the curtain comes down on the W.S. Neal campaign Friday, Hathcock said there is still plenty to play for.