Late surge lifts Tigers over Neal

Published 10:38 am Sunday, September 23, 2007

By Staff
staff reports
THOMASVILLE — Things went from bad to worse in the fourth quarter for W.S. Neal.
The Eagles shook off a sluggish offensive performance and stayed within striking distance of No. 5-ranked Thomasville on Friday through two-and-half quarters. When Xavier Singleton blocked a field-goal attempt, scooped up the loose pigskin and raced 81 yards for a touchdown, it knotted the game at 20-all midway through the third quarter.
The Eagles (2-2 overall, 1-2 in 4A, Region 1) forced a punt on the Tigers’ ensuing possession — prompting the home folks at D.F. Anderson Field to shift uncomfortably in their seats — but that didn’t last long.
Neal fumbled on its next play, turning the ball over at its own 19 for the Eagles’ lone turnover of the night.
Thomasville scored four plays later on a 2-yard pass from Daniel Rodgers to Kenny Sanders, and the Tigers (3-1, 3-0) scored 22 unanswered points to post a 42-20 victory.
Neal’s fumble came on a simple handoff, and Thomasville’s Roya Campbell jumped on the football and wrestled it away for the recovery.
Campbell added touchdown runs of 30 and 45 yards in the game’s final 13 minutes, as the Tigers scored 22 unanswered points to post their third straight victory. Thomasville coach Jack Hankins agreed that the fumble was the game’s turning point.
Thomasville controlled the game, rolling up 479 total yards and holding Neal to just 112, but the Tigers had little to show for it until pulling away in the fourth quarter.
Neal, meanwhile, never found any offensive rhythm and gained just 91 rushing yards on 37 carries. Quarterback Taylor Cash finished 4-of-10 for 21 yards.
Thomasville took an early 13-0 lead, with Alex Buford scoring on a 6-yard run to cap a 5-play, 96-yard drive and Rodgers hooking up with Tysean Thompson on a 21-yard pass with 1:01 to play in the opening quarter.
Neal counter-punched with back-to-back special teams plays. Singleton blocked Harrison Lewis’ extra point, and Jeremy Nicholson returned the ensuing kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown.
Nicholson took the kick, sprinted left and appeared to be stopped by several Thomasville defenders near the 20.
Then, he somehow popped out of the pile and sprinted down the Neal sideline for the touchdown to cut the deficit to 13-6.
On the Tigers’ next offensive play, Neal’s Nathaniel Sheffield covered a Thomasville fumble, and the Eagles needed just six plays to cover 37 yards. Louis Ray Nelson scored on a 14-yard run, and Akeem Green’s extra point tied the game at 13.
Thomasville responded with a five-play, 73-yard scoring drive just before halftime, with Campbell scoring on a 27-yard run. Thomasville led 20-13 at halftime.
Neal managed only three first downs in the second half and finished with just 4 yards rushing on 17 carries after intermission.
Despite the lack of production, Neal tied the game at 20 when Singleton blocked Lewis’ 25-yard field-goal attempt and raced 81 yards for the touchdown with 7:16 to play in the third.
Then, the fumble changed the game’s momentum.
Thomasville put the game away with 22 unanswered points.
In the fourth quarter, Neal punter Donald Peacock couldn’t scoop a low snap near the Eagles’ goal line.
Instead of risking a blocked punt for a touchdown, he ran out of the back to the end zone for a safety.
Neal returns home next week for a non-region game against Opp, which lost 34-19 to Daleville on Friday.

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