Eagles get tough preseason contest against Andalusia

Published 7:26 am Wednesday, August 22, 2007

It would figure to be a tough challenge regardless of when the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles met the Andalusia Bulldogs. Thursday is probably as good a time as any.
The Blue Eagles will get a good measuring stick of where they stand and how far they have to go when they host the Bulldogs at 7 p.m. in a preseason game.
Andalusia will bring plenty of expectations with it to East Brewton. The Bulldogs are coming off a 10-4 season that ended with a 42-26 loss to Thomasville in the Class 4A state semifinals. Andalusia returns several key cogs from that squad and enters this season ranked third in the state preseason poll.
Andalusia is under new leadership this season after preceding coach Tom Causey stepped down in April. Former Munford coach Heath Harmon, who has also had a head coaching stint at Cordova, was hired in May to take his place.
That means W.S. Neal will probably see a good dose of running back Michael Berry (6-2, 195 lb. jr.), who led the Andalusia ground game last season.
Andalusia has to replace Matt Mellown at quarterback. Brent Shiver (5-9, 142 lb. jr.) is expected to take over the signal-calling duties this season.
Like W.S. Neal with Jared Cooper, Andalusia has a big set of shoes to fill up front with the graduation of offensive lineman Josh Smithart, who was one of two runner-up state finalists to Cooper for last year's Class 4A Lineman of the Year.
While Andalusia no longer has that big presence on offense, it has one on defense with linebacker Nico Johnson (6-2, 214 lb. jr.).
This year's exhibition game will have a different format than the one used in past years. First, a two-quarter middle school exhibition game between Andalusia and W.S. Neal will be played. That action starts at 6 p.m.
The varsity game will begin approximately 30 minutes after the middle school game is completed, which is estimated to be at about 7 p.m.
The varsity will play two quarters followed by one quarter of B team, which will mainly be freshmen and sophomores. W.S. Neal and Andalusia played a four-quarter game last year.
Last year Andalusia drilled W.S. Neal 44-18 in the preseason. The Bulldogs racked up 457 yards of offense, 444 of which came on the ground, in that contest. The Blue Eagles bounced back from that setback with a 10-2 record.
The W.S. Neal coach feels his team has made steady progress from the end of the first week of practice until now.
Hathcock said perhaps the biggest area that has not come along as well as he would like is his team's punting game.
Thursday's game marks the first time since 2003 when W.S. Neal knocked off Andalusia 20-17 that the Blue Eagles have played their preseason game at home. W.S. Neal travelled to Andalusia in 2004, to Hillcrest-Evergreen in 2005 and back to Andalusia in 2006.