Eagles look to turn up defense in playoff opener at Jemison
Published 6:54 pm Wednesday, November 8, 2006
By BY BRUCE HIXON – SPORTS EDITOR
Offense helped get W.S. Neal into the playoffs, but it may be defense that determines how far the Blue Eagles advance in the postseason.
W.S. Neal will make its first postseason appearance in three years Thursday when it travels to Jemison for a Class 4A first-round matchup with the Panthers.
The Blue Eagles (8-2) enter postseason play as one of the state's hottest teams with six straight wins. That includes last week's 52-0 thumping of Calhoun in the regular season finale.
The Blue Eagles, who scored 40 or more points in each of those wins, enter postseason play with the second most points scored of any team in the Class 4A playoff field. The only team that scored more than W.S. Neal's 393 points was Central-Tuscaloosa with 418.
The Blue Eagles rank third in points per game average in the 4A playoff field at 39.3 points per game. Top-ranked Alexandria averaged 42.6 points a game, but played one less contest than W.S. Neal. Central-Tuscaloosa ranks second at 41.8 per contest.
Jemison (6-4) earned a three-way share of the Region 4 championship with Fayette County and Central-Tuscaloosa, as each finished region play with 6-1 records. Fayette County got that region's number one seed because its defeated opponents had the most wins. Once that tie was broken, Jemison got that region's number two seed through its head-to-head win over Central-Tuscaloosa.
Non-region games were not kind to the Panthers, as they dropped all three of those contests during the season. One of those was a 28-21 setback to Jackson Friday, a team W.S. Neal beat 54-39 two weeks earlier.
Most of the Panthers production comes from its running backs duo of Nick Eggers (5-7, 150 lb. sr.) and Demetrius Tompkins (6-0, 160 lb. sr.). Both have been big contributors throughout the season and each topped 100 yards rushing two weeks ago when the Panthers drilled Northside 48-0.
Jemison quarterback Jeffery Alexander (6-0, 170 lb. sr.) will give the W.S. Neal defense a different look because he is left-handed. Hathcock said Alexander's skills are a bit of a mystery.
Only two current Blue Eagles, left tackle Jared Cooper, and running back Justin Smith, saw significant time in W.S. Neal's last playoff run back in 2003. Jemison has been a regular postseason participant since.
The W.S. Neal-Jemison winner will take on Dadeville (5-5)-Trinity Presbyterian (8-2) winner next week. The Blue Eagles would host Trinity and travel to Dadeville.