Eagles rout Daleville

Published 8:51 am Tuesday, September 4, 2007

By BY BRUCE HIXON – SPORTS EDITOR
Once they survived a storm, the W.S. Neal Blue Eagles became a storm.
W.S. Neal got 259 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns from senior running back Louis Ray Nelson and three rushing touchdowns from quarterback Taylor Cash in his first varsity start, as it overwhelmed the host Daleville Warhawks 41-21 Friday in the regular season opener for both teams.
The Blue Eagles racked up 365 yards of total offense, 339 of which came on the ground. Most of that came from Nelson, who had four runs of 20 or more yards and three more of at least 10 yards.
Despite the fact the Blue Eagles' defense surrendered 140 yards rushing and a pair of scores on 19 attempts to Daleville running back Jonas Randolph, W.S. Neal also came up big on the other side of the ball where it forced six fumbles and recovered four of them. The Blue Eagles also got the equivalent of a fifth turnover through special teams on a blocked punt.
The game was an hour and 15 minutes late getting started due to a torrential thunderstorm. The first half was played in continuous light to moderate rain before it stopped in the second half.
W.S. Neal, which lost a fumble recovered by Randolph on just its second offensive play of the game, was a lot more successful the second time it touched the ball.
The Blue Eagles went 60 yards on just seven plays. Cash converted a key third-and-one-at midfield with a short dive for the first down that kept the drive alive. Four plays later Nelson broke loose for a 32-yard touchdown run. A missed extra point attempt kept W.S. Neal's lead at 6-0 with 5:29 left in the first quarter.
That lead lasted just 18 seconds. Daleville's Kamario Davis returned the ensuing kickoff back 60 yards to the W.S. Neal 11-yard line and Randolph covered those yards one player later on a run to the left side. Daniel Helms split the uprights on the PAT and put the Warhawks up 7-6.
Daleville added to that lead after its defense posted a three-and-out on the ensuing series. The Warhawks went 58 yards on six plays. The key play was a 36-yard run by Randolph that eventually set up an 11-yard scoring strike from Tevin Flowers to Joe Beckham. Helms added the PAT to make it 14-6 with one minute left in the first quarter.
Nelson, who had 187 yards rushing on 10 first half carries, picked up 58 of those the first play after the ensuing kickoff that took the ball all the way to the Daleville 11.
A three-yard run by Akeem Green and a seven-yard run by Nate Sheffield set up a one-yard touchdown plunge. Cash then pulled W.S. Neal even at 14-14 with 11:50 left in the half when he hit Donald Peacock in the end zone on a rollout to the right side for the two-point conversion.
The Blue Eagles followed a defensive stop in their own territory with an 89-yard scoring drive to take the lead for good.
Once again it was a long run Nelson that set up things, as he chalked up another 43 yards on the first play from scrimmage after the possession change. Nelson also had a 15-yard gain on the series.
Cash also had two key plays, a 15-yard pass to Peacock and an 11-yard run into the end zone with 2:43 left in the half to put W.S. Neal up 20-14. It stayed a six-point game when Cash's two-point pass attempt fell incomplete.
Perhaps the game's biggest play came after another stop by the W.S. Neal defense, this one deep in Daleville territory. Warhawks punter Daniel Nelms had his kick attempt blocked by Jamar Travis and Maurice Samuels scooped up the loose ball and ran it in 10 yards for a touchdown. Cash ran in the two-point conversion to put W.S. Neal up 28-14 with a minute left in the first half.
Randolph tried to keep the Warhawks within striking distance. First, he returned the second half kickoff back 35 yards to the W.S. Neal 43. Later he kept the drive alive on a fourth-and-seven at the 23-yard line with an eight-yard run for a first down. Finally he cut to the right side for a 15-yard touchdown run. Helms' PAT kick narrowed W.S. Neal's lead to 28-21 with 9:52 left in the period.
That was one of the few times in the second half where the Warhawks offense did not put its defense in a hole.
Daleville committed the first of three second half lost fumbles deep in its own territory late in the third quarter, as W.S. Neal recovered at the Warhawks' 15-yard line.
It took just three plays for the Blue Eagles to cash the turnover into a touchdown, as Cash scored on a two-yard run with 2:15 left in the third frame. Green's PAT kick stretched the lead to 35-21.
Daleville threatened to make it a one-score lead early in the fourth quarter. The Warhawks drove all the way to the W.S. Neal 12-yard line only to surrender the ball on a fumble recovery by Derrick Fantroy.
The Blue Eagles all but sealed their win with an impressive 13-play, 84-yard march that ended with an eight-yard touchdown run by Nelson. Just as important was the fact the drive took 7:32 off the clock and left just 3:27 left to play. Green came up short on the PAT, which left the gap 41-21.
Daleville's last possession was snuffed out on another lost fumble, this one recovered by Cody Brown at the W.S. Neal 25-yard line.
W.S. Neal is back on the road next week when it opens up Class 4A Region 1 play with a trip to Escambia County. Escambia County also won its season opener Friday, as it edged Alabama Christian Academy 12-8. Game time is 7 p.m.