W.S. Neal Eagles face inexperience and tough region in 2008

Published 5:26 pm Wednesday, May 21, 2008

By By Adam Robinson – Sports Editor
After finishing the 2007 football season with a 6-5 record, which included their second straight defeat of arch rival T.R. Miller and making the playoffs for the second straight season, the W.S. Neal Eagle football team wrapped up their 10-day spring training period with a spring game last Friday afternoon.
The Eagles began their spring training period on May 5 as they conducted drills in preparation for the upcoming summer workout and fall 2008 season.
While W.S. Neal Eagle head football coach Blaine Hathcock saw some good things, one bad thing really sticks out at him: inexperience.
While spring training was held in May, a typical hot month and close to the fall, Hathcock said the weather was OK and the spring training period only saw one injury.
Although his team may be a young team, Hathcock saw some positive things in the 10-day period.
“We have Jamar Travis returning up front, Derrick Fantroy is moving back to linebacker after playing defensive end. Karish Jones would be another returner depending on his injury.
Jeremy Nicholson is going to play some back there for us and Maurice Samuels is going to play some for us in the secondary. Jason Bailey is going to play some linebacker. We have a little more experience on defense for us than on the offensive side of the ball.”
Running back:
“We have Nate Sheffield who has played there some. But as far as people who have played there and took some meaningful snaps in big time situations in games we don't have anyone. Nate has played there some and Jason Bailey has played there before. Maurice Samuel has played there some, but I thought T.J. Taylor ran the ball well today. We don't have a lot of size back there, which is going to be different for us than in the past two years for sure. We don't have the physical presence back there like we use to have.”
“We have Jeremy Nicholson who is our leading receiver and is returning. Nathan Frazier played a good bit there for us and is returning. Tyler Cross had a good spring for us. He is coming off the baseball team and has never played football before. Jeremy Alexander has played there for us too.
They have pretty good skills and decent speed among those guys so I actually feel pretty good with the guys we have there.”
“This is the question. We are just so inexperienced up front and the most inexperienced we have had since I have been here by far. We are rebuilding the entire front on offense and its just going to take some time. Right now we have two tenth graders right now up front and possibly more. Obviously it is going to be tough for us.”
Special teams:
“Same story, different verse. We lost our long snapper, we lost our punter, we lost both place-kickers and the only person we have coming back is our holder in Taylor Cash. We are going to start over as we have people working at all those positions and right now it is just question marks.
We will get at it over the summer and no one has jumped out at us as a leader at any of those positions. We have a decent long snapper in Danny Warrick, but other than that we will spend more time in summer addressing that.”
Secondary and linebackers:
“We have a little bit of experience coming back in the people I mentioned as we moved Fantroy back to linebacker and he had a really good spring. Nate Sheffield and Jason Bailey are also coming back for us there. We moved Karish there and we are hoping he will be healthy.”
“What can you say? We are talking about the toughest 4A region in Alabama and I don't know how people could question it not being. You had four teams in our region that went to at least the quarterfinals. One in 5A in UMS and one in 3A in Clarke County and that's tough. You got Jackson and Hillcrest is always athletic. Its just one of those things where our guys are going to have to mature and mature early.
We don't have great numbers. We finished the spring with 42 kids in grades 9-12 and our region is going to be critical.
We are going to open on a Thursday night as I thought it would be a good idea and we will have our jamboree the week before on a Thursday against Atmore. Obviously, for gate purposes I thought it would be good and that is basically the reason we did. Its something different for us and the gate will be good as the only team in the county playing.”
What now?:
College prospect Jamar Travis:
Jamar has been officially nominated for consideration to play in the 2009 U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Saturday, January 3, 2009 at 1 p.m. (EST) in San Antonio live on NBC.
The bowl is considered high school football's premier All-American game as it provides senior athletes a national platform to display their talent and compete against the best.
According to bowl contact people, Jamar is a standout defensive tackle.
Of the 400 nominees, 90 will be selected and invited to the 2009 bowl, which has featured Reggie Bush, Vince Young, Adrian Peterson and Brady Quinn.
“Jamar has a lot of offers and will have a lot of opportunities,” Hathcock said.
2008 W.S. Neal schedule:
Thursday, August 28, Monroe County Home
Friday, September 5, Clarke County Home *
Friday, September 12, Andalusia Away*
Friday, September 19, Thomasville Home*
Friday, September 26, Calhoun Homecoming
Friday, October 3, Hillcrest Away*
Friday, October 10, UMS-Wright Home*
Friday, October 17, Jackson Away*
Friday, October 24, B.C. Rain Home*
Friday, October 31, T.R. Miller Away
*region game

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