Game story: WSN beats TRM 34-26
For the first time since 2007—five years exactly to the date—the W.S. Neal Eagles took home the Battle of Murder Creek trophy and clinched a spot in the class 3A state playoffs as they rallied to defeat No. 2 and undefeated T.R. Miller 34-26 Friday night in Brewton in front of a standing room only crowd.
The Eagles (7-2 overall and 5-2 in region play) rallied from a 13-0, a 13-6, a 13-12, and a 20-12 deficit to tie the game at 20-20 with 1:19 left in the third quarter.
From there, the Eagles would outscored T.R. Miller (8-1 overall and 6-1 in region play) 14-6 in the fourth quarter and held off a late Tiger rally to seal the win.
“Even if this would not have been the Battle of Murder Creek, what a great ballgame,” W.S. Neal head coach Doug Hoehn said. “Both teams played with a lot of class and fought their guts out. That is a well-coached team over there. Coach Riggs and his assistants do a great job. I want to give their kids a lot of credit too. They are class kids and I saw that last year, too. Both teams played hard that game too and I told our kids after that game that we could hold our heads up because we lost to a great football team. It was a great atmosphere. We have a great atmosphere at our place and there is a great atmosphere here. Once a year, two communities kind of separate for a week then come together. There is great folks on both sides, it really is. It is a great rivalry. I love it. I really do.”
Tiger head coach Jamie Riggs said Neal did a great job in the second half.
“We didn’t have the ball much at all,” he said. “They kept it away from us and I give them credit for that. We made way too many mistakes. You can’t drop the ball and you have to execute the passing game a whole lot better than we did. So that part is on us. But they did a great job of controlling the ball and eating up the clock and I know that was their plan.”
Leading 28-26 with 7:52 left in the game, Dylan Godwin connected with Cam Blackman for a 6-yard touchdown pass with 3:17 left in the game to give the Eagles the eight-point lead.
A roughing-the-punter call on T.R. Miller set up the touchdown and a Tiger fumble on the play. Also on the play, the Tigers were hit with a 15-yard personal foul call.
“It is an amazing feeling,” Godwin said of the win and getting the late touchdown to help seal the win. “We can finally say that we beat Miller our senior year and that put icing on the cake is we were able to beat them when they wore their black jerseys. I knew we just had to stick with it. We have not given up this season and we have come so far and we just had to make a play.”
Hoehn said the play called for the last touchdown was one he almost called earlier in the game.
“They (T.R. Miller) were walking up and forcing the issue on the line of scrimmage,” Hoehn said. “We almost called it earlier and it is something we have been working on we just have not shown a lot of it. We looked at it the play before and they really did not have a second-level ballplayer. Everyone was a first-level player. They had one guy that was in between a second and third-level ballplayer but he was kind of working the other side and our quarterback just read it correctly and hit the right guy.”
With W.S. Neal leading by eight points, the Tigers drove to the Eagle 33-yard line before being picked off by the Eagles. From there, the Tigers held W.S. Neal on four plays and used timeouts to get an Eagle punt and take the ball on their own 41-yard line with 22.6 seconds left in the game.
Kevin Davis found Dominique Jackson for a 48-yard pass reception to give T.R. Miller new life at the W.S. Neal 16-yard line. From there, the Tigers missed on four pass plays and W.S. Neal sealed the win by eight.
With the win, the Eagles clinched the No. 2 seed in region 1. It was also the first time the Eagles knocked off T.R. Miller in their black jerseys. The Tigers came out in black jersey and pants and fell to 18-2 overall in the jerseys and to 5-1 against the Eagles in them. It was the first loss in the black jerseys since a 2001 regular season loss to UMS-Wright. Marquese Banks led W.S. Neal with 201 yards on 29 carries and one touchdown. Quenton Samuels had 130 yards on nine carries and a 94-yard touchdown to break the 20-all tie and put W.S. Neal up 28-20.
Quarterback Dylan Godwin added 73 yards on 17 carries and had one touchdown.
Godwin was 1-for-4 passing with a six yards and one touchdown.
Caleb Strength had one catch from Christian Purvis for 15 yards while Cam Blackman had one catch for a touchdown and six yards.
The Eagles had 436 total yards in the win with 415 coming on the ground and 21 passing. The Eagles had 162 yards rushing in the first half and 253 in the second while accumulating 15 yards passing in the first half and six in the second.
“Coming into this game we thought we would have some success running it,” Hoehn said. “We have had some success running it, except for last week. So, we wanted to keep the game close. We slowed down our offense a little bit to keep their offense off the field. Their quarterback and tailback and fullbacks are such great athletes. We wanted to limit their snaps. I told the kids that we wanted to stay close. That if we were ahead or tied at halftime, I told them I liked W.S. Neal’s chances. I am just proud of the kids.
“I am proud of both teams. I really am. I am proud of both teams and both staffs. It is just a great rivalry. Hopefully it can be like this every year. A rivalry is supposed to be two hard fought teams that play competitive football and I think that is what we have had the past two years. I am excited about it.”
Riggs said he knew W.S. Neal had a great running game and they would run right at his team.
“They have great runners and we knew that,” he said. “They didn’t do anything that we didn’t know about, you know. We just didn’t quite get the job done as good as we would have liked too. Had we maintained control of the ball a little bit more, we would have been in a lot better of a situation. We missed a situation with turnovers and receivers that we just didn’t execute the passing game like we should have a few times.
“That is part of football and you just have to make plays.”
T.R. Miller was led by Dominique Jackson’s 180 yards on 17 carries and one touchdown.
Kameron Coleman added 67 yards on 10 carries and had three touchdowns.
Quarterback Kevin Davis was 7-for-20 with two interceptions and 140 yards.
Jackson led receiving with one catch for 48 yards while McHenry Coleman had two catches for 29 yards.
The Tigers had 413 yards of offense in the loss with 273 coming on the ground and 140 in the air.
T.R. Miller had 130 yards rushing in the first half with 143 in the second. The Tigers had 81 passing yards in the first half and 59 in the second.
The Tigers had two interceptions in the loss and lost two fumbles on punt returns—something Riggs said will get you beat every time.
“You have to catch the punts and we did not catch the punts,” he said. “If you have punting problems that is one way to get beat in high school football and we didn’t execute in that area tonight.”
Hoehn said this win shows a lot about his team and the community after losing homecoming last week to Opp 14-0 and being forced into a must-win situation to get in the playoffs.
“The win is big, number one because of the rivalry,” he said. “For me, it is the playoffs. If you want to take the team to the next level and really improve, you have to have some consistency and beat good teams. When you can beat a team that is good athletically and that is well coached, I think that says something about your own program. That was a big win for tonight. It really was. We have to enjoy this one, but we have to have some consistency in the next weeks. We might not like what faces us in the playoffs, so we are going to challenge the kids on Monday, I can guarantee you that.”
The win for W.S. Neal was their 21st all-time against W.S. Neal.
The two schools have met a total of 70 times with 67 coming in the regular season and three int he playoffs.
T.R. Miller leads the series 49-21 overall with a 46-21 lead in the regular season and a 3-0 record against the Eagles in the playoffs.
T.R. Miller will finish up their regular season next week with a home game against ranked Sweetwater while W.S. Neal travels to Millry.
Both teams have qualifed for the playoffs with T.R. Miller having the No. 1 seed followed by W.S. Neal, Bayside Academy and Straughn.
T.R. Miller and W.S. Neal will host first round games while Bayside Academy and Straughn will travel.
The four region 1 teams will meet up with region 2 teams. Region 2 includes Daleville, Barbour County, Dale County, Slocomb, Abbeville, Geneva, Pike County and Catholic.
Prior to Friday’s games, Daleville had clinched the No. 1 seed in region 1 while Barbour County was in second, Dale County in third and Slocomb in fourth place.