A night to make statements
Published 12:36 pm Monday, September 18, 2006
By BY BRUCE HIXON – sports editor
W.S. Neal followers who were originally upset when the Alabama High School Athletic Association replaced Andalusia with Southside-Selma in Class 4A Region 1 are probably now glad it did.
The Blue Eagles rediscovered both their running attack and their rush defense Friday, as they downed the host Panthers 42-12.
The win got W.S. Neal (2-1 overall and 1-1 in region play) back on track after last week's loss to Escambia County. Meanwhile the early season struggles continued for Southside-Selma, which fell to 0-3 overall and 0-2 in region play. The Panthers have been outscored 119-26 in their three games.
W.S. Neal racked up 258 yards on the ground one week after it was limited to just 69 against Escambia County. It also held the Panthers ground game to minus four yards one week after they allowed 220.
Other than Southside's second drive of the game where the Panthers drove 48 yards for their only score in the first three quarters, W.S. Neal was in firm control the whole way.
After a three-and-out stop by their defense on the opening series of the game, the Blue Eagles got a 55-yard gain by quarterback Marquis Barksdale on their first play from scrimmage. Barksdale's carry took the ball all the way to the Southside eight-yard line.
Justin Smith covered the remaining distance over the next two plays, as he scored on a two-yard touchdown run to his left. Jamar Travis hit the first of six point after attempt kicks to make it 7-0 with nine minutes even left in the opening quarter.
A 30-yard kickoff return by Kevin Rown enabled Southside to start the following series in W.S. Neal territory at the 48-yard line. It took the Panthers nine plays to cover that yardage. Rown accounted for the final six of those yards on a touchdown run to the right that trimmed the Blue Eagles' lead to 7-6 with 4:48 left in the first quarter. It stayed that way when Rown was stopped on a two-point conversion run attempt.
Just like it received from Barksdale on its first play from scrimmage, W.S. Neal got another long run on the ensuing possession that set up another score. This one covered just over half the length of the field when Nykeem Barton, who had 104 yards rushing on 10 carries, broke loose on a 51-yard dash. That set up a nine-yard touchdown run on the quarterback keeper by Barksdale. Travis' kick extended the lead to 14-6 with 3:11 left in the first quarter.
W.S. Neal's third straight scoring possession was set up by a 28-yard punt return by Smith, which gave the Blue Eagles great field position at the Panthers 32. Two runs by Barksdale for 15 yards and two by Barton for 14 yards preceded a three-yard touchdown run by Barton. Travis made it 21-6 with his third kick.
The Blue Eagles made it four scores in four possession when a shanked punt by Panthers kicker Orlando Brown enabled W.S. Neal to take over at the Southside 35.
While it took the Blue Eagles eight plays to go that distance, they cashed in when Barksdale, who added 90 yards on eight carries for the game, score don an eight-yard run. Travis took the lead up to 28-6 with his PAT kick with 4:30 left in the half.
W.S. Neal, which outgained Southside 204-46 in the first half, picked up where it left off on the opening series in the third quarter. The Blue Eagles used pass completions of 21 yards from Barksdale to Jonathan Alexander and 11 yards from Barksdale to Justin Howard to set up a nine-yard touchdown run by Smith. Travis tacked on the PAT that made it 35-6 with 8:10 left.
Southside's special teams, which have had trouble all season, hurt the Panthers again on the following series when Brown was unable to get his kick off after a low snap. Instead he was tackled for a 10-yard loss that gave W.S. Neal the ball at the Southside 23-yard line.
The Blue Eagles overcame a holding penalty with two runs by Barton for 14 yards to set up a 10-yard touchdown strike form Barksdale to Alexander. Travis finished his perfect night in the PAT area and made it 42-6 with 3:42 left in the half.
Southside ended a string of 35 straight points by the Blue Eagles with 7:19 left when Evell Rubin hit Willie Cooper on a 28-yard touchdown strike against much of the W.S. Neal second team defense. A failed two-point pass left the final margin at 42-12.
The Blue Eagles face their toughest challenge to date so far when they host Thomasville this Friday 7 p.m. in another region game. Thomasville, the top-ranked team in the state in Class 4A, remained unbeaten Friday with a 27-18 win over Jackson.