Neal delivers homecoming knockout, 56-0
By By Scott Cooper – Sports Writer
The W.S. Neal Blue Eagles gave Friday night's homecoming crowd plenty of reason to be in a festive mood.
In a 56-0 regional victory over the Central-Hayneville Lions, the Blue Eagles' offense scored on their first five possessions to build a 36-0 first quarter lead. Meanwhile, the defense forced five turnovers and held the Lions to minus five total yards for the entire game.
Neal head Jim Fountain coach said following the contest that although he was glad to get the win and the opportunity to get a lot of players in the game, he takes no pleasure in beating a team by such a big margin.
Neal kicked-off to begin the contest and quickly forced a mistake that was converted into a score. On the third snap from center, a Central fumble was recovered by Neal's Keith Woods on the Lions' 17-yard line.
It took only one play for the Blue Eagles to strike paydirt, as Alphonso Gross took the handoff before veering off the right side of the line and heading to the end zone for the touchdown. Nick Benjamin's PAT made the score 7-0 with 10:45 left in the opening quarter.
Following the Neal touchdown, Kendreal Williams' kickoff sailed into the end zone and forced Central to begin from the 20-yard line.
The Blue Eagles' defensive unit picked-up where they left off in the first series, as Jake Bailey threw the Central running back for a six-yard loss on first down. Then, Craig Tagudar sacked the quarterback for a two-yard loss on second down. A third-down swing pass was completed, but Chris Johnson sniffed-out the play and dropped the receiver for an 11-yard loss. On the fourth-down punt from the Lions' end zone, the Central punter mishandled the snap before a swarm of Neal defenders tackled him in the end zone for a safety.
Leading 9-0 after the two-point safety, the Blue Eagles returned the kick to the Central 21-yard line and immediately stretched their lead.
A Gross run off left tackle covered the distance into the end zone and Benjamin's PAT padded the cushion to 16-0 with 8:35 still left in the first quarter.
The Blue Eagles' defense was unrelenting on Central's next possession. Three Lions' plays netted minus five yards, forcing a punt from the 20-yard line.
On the second play of the Blue Eagles' next offensive series, Tristen Elliott got in on the scoring by crossing the goal line on a 25-yard run. With 6:30 showing on the clock in the first quarter, Benjamin split the uprights on the PAT for a 23-0 Neal lead.
The Lions began their next offensive series from their own 25-yard line, but were forced the punt after the Neal defense pushed them back to the 7-yard line.
The Blue Eagles fumbled the punt on the Central 35-yard line, but Benjamin scooped-up the loose ball on the run before heading down the field to the Lions' 3-yard line. From there, Jake Bailey took it up the middle for the score. The PAT attempt was unsuccessful, making the score 29-0.
The Lions' offensive efforts continued to be stymied by the Blue Eagles' dominating defensive play. Following a fourth down conversion attempt from their 18-yard line, the Lions were forced to give the ball back.
It took one snap for the Blue Eagles to capitalize on the defensive stand, as a Paul Crabtree to Marcus Folmar pass connection covered the 18 yards into the end zone. Spencer Williamson successfully converted the PAT to end the first quarter scoring barrage at 36-0.
Neither team seriously threatened to score in the second quarter. The Blue Eagles, substituting freely to give as many players as possible game experience, had one drive stall at the Central 45-yard line. The scoreless second period sent the two teams into the locker room with the score intact at 36-0.
As the second half unfolded, the Blue Eagles effectively provided a replay of the opening quarter with three touchdowns on their first three possessions.
On the first second-half scoring drive, a Benjamin to J.J. Pitts aerial strike for 23 yards put Neal in good position on the Lions' 31-yard line. Gross covered the remaining yardage the next play on a toss sweep to the right. The scoreboard showed Neal out front 42-0 after the missed PAT.
After holding the Lions and forcing a punt from Central's 14-yard line, the Neal defensive unit added to the total. Johnson broke free to block the punt and Tagudar recovered the ball in the Lions' end zone to give the Blue Eagles a 49-0 advantage after Brad Jerkins booted the PAT through the uprights.
On the Lions' next offensive series, another big defensive play was responsible for a Neal score.
With Central facing a second down and 16 from their 14-yard line, the Blue Eagles' Bailey returned a fumble on the next snap to the 3-yard line. Benjamin surged into the end zone from that point on a quarterback sneak, and with the PAT by Jerkins, the scoring ended at 56-0.