EC leaves Eagles feeling blue with first setback
Published 11:41 am Monday, September 11, 2006
By BY DANIEL HODGE – SPORTS WRITER
The biggest concern for the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles in its preseason loss to Andalusia was probably its biggest strength when the game counted for real.
The W.S. Neal defense, which gave up 457 yards of offense to Andalusia, completely shut down the visiting Daleville Warhawks 28-0 in Friday's season opener.
Daleville managed just 154 yards of total offense. A key ingredient of that success was W.S. Neal's toughness on third down where the Warhawks converted just one of 11 opportunities.
“Our defense played well, but we still missed too many tackles,” W.S. Neal coach Blaine Hathcock said.
On the other side of the ball, the Blue Eagle offense was very potent all night long where it averaged nearly 10 yards per play.
The Warhawks took possession on their own 22-yard line after the opening kickoff by Jamar Travis. On the second play of the drive, Calvin Flowers grabbed the handoff and ran right only to be met by a host of Blue Eagles. Flowers was stripped of the ball and W.S. Neal's Shaunathon Williams recovered at the Daleville 46-yard line.
The Blue Eagle offense failed to take advantage of the great field position and was forced to punt after three plays. Justin Smith's punt traveled 40 yards and was downed inside the one-yard line.
W.S. Neal's defense was able to set up another good scoring chance for the offense and this time it came through.
The game's first points came with 18 seconds left in the first quarter when Nykeem Barton powered his way into the endzone from four yards out. Travis' kick sailed through the uprights and moved the score to 7-0. The key play of the drive came on a 52-yard pass completion from Marquis Barksdale to Jonathan Alexander, which set up a first and goal situation.
After another defensive stop and a 31-yard Warhawk punt, the Blue Eagles regained possession on their own 40-yard line. On the first play of the drive, Louis Ray Nelson dodged several tackles on his way to a 23-yard run to the Daleville 37-yard line. On the very next play, Barton broke loose down the right sideline for his second touchdown in as many carries. Travis' point after kick was good and extended the Blue Eagles' lead to 14-0 with 10:50 left until halftime.
One of W.S. Neal's biggest defensive stops came with less than three minutes before halftime. The Warhawks marched the ball all the way to the W.S. Neal 10-yard line where it was stopped on downs.
With little time before the half, the Blue Eagles were hungry for another score. Barksdale first provided some spark with his legs, as his 19-yard run took the ball out to the W.S. Neal 30. Barksdale then showed what he could do
with his arm, as he hooked up with Alexander in the middle of the field. Alexander was able to win a foot race to the endzone for a 70-yard touchdown. The kick by Travis was no good, which left the Blue Eagles on top 20-0.
Perhaps the most impressive scoring drive came midway through the third quarter when the Blue Eagles marched the ball 99 yards over five plays. W.S. Neal took possession
following a Thomas Starr
punt that was downed at the one-yard line. Starr also had an earlier punt that was downed at the one.
A 15-yard run by Justin Smith and a defensive personal foul set up a 49-yard gain by Nelson. W.S. Neal got 15 more yards when Daleville was whistled for another personal foul after the play.
Those plays led to a 13-yard touchdown run by Smith, who broke loose down the left side. The Blue Eagles were flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the score. Instead of a 35-yard kick attempt, Hathcock opted to go for the two-point conversion. Barksdale dropped back out of the shotgun formation and found Justin Howard in the right corner of the endzone for the two-point play. That took W.S. Neal's lead up to 28-0 with just over two minutes left in the third quarter.
The Blue Eagles had one final chance to punch it in the endzone, but things did not turn out as planned when a fumble was recovered on the Daleville six-yard line.
W.S. Neal enters region play this Friday when it hosts Escambia County at 7 p.m.