Eagles take tough loss
The W.S. Neal Eagles took a difficult loss Friday night at home to the 2017 class 3A state champions, the Hillcrest Jaguars (now 4A) in their first region game of the season, falling 20-62 after keeping it close in the first half. This drops the Eagles to 0-2 on the season and 0-1 in region play.
Head coach Andro Williams said his young team is a work in progress. “Our young guys are in uncharted territory. These freshmen, they’ve got to grow up in a hurry, because it doesn’t get any easier from here on out. We’ve just got to bow up and do what we’ve got to do,” Williams said. “I thought we came out and battled for the most part. We understand our plan. We’ve got some great guys that have worked toward where we’re trying to go. I knew the numbers game was going to be a factor.”
The first quarter was a battle of the defenses, as neither team crossed the goal line before the second quarter began. Both teams went three-and-out on their second possessions before Hillcrest drew first blood with 6:46 on the clock in the second quarter. The PAT was batted down, and the Jaguars jumped to a 6-0 lead.
As Neal began their next drive, Jaguar Jacobee Bryant intercepted a pass and ran it back for a Hillcrest touchdown. The PAT was good, and the Jaguars increased their lead to 13-0 with 5:55 on the clock in the second quarter.
A nice kickoff return by Neal junior Amon Craig, along with a 35-yard pass from senior quarterback Matthew Thomas to Craig set up a 10-yard touchdown pass from Thomas to fellow senior Tyreke Williams, closing the gap in the score to 6-13 with 2:15 left in the half.
After only two snaps by the Jaguars, Neal sophomore Mario Lane recovered a fumble to the delight of the home crowd. Starting their drive at the 50-yard-line, the Eagle offense used two bombs from Thomas to junior Ezekiel Smith to tie the score. Thomas and Smith stunned the Jaguars with another pass that ended in the end zone. Junior Jennings Hobbs nailed the PAT, tying the score at 13 all with just over a minute left in the half.
It looked like the Eagles would head into halftime with the score tied, but Hillcrest made quick work of a four-play, 73-yard drive that ended with a two-yard touchdown run by Jakorian Ray just before the break. The PAT was good, putting the Jaguars back on top 20-13 at the half.
The Eagles added 7 more points to the home side of the scoreboard with 10:15 on the clock in the game when freshman quarterback Alex Alvarez, made a 58-yard scramble into the end zone, and sophomore Bryan Parker added the PAT, making the score 20 for the Eagles to 49 for the Jaguars.
The Jags would score one more time on a four-yard run with 7:20 left in the game, leaving the final score at 62-20.
Coach Williams said his team still has a lot of work to do. “I thought we improved in a lot of areas, but we’ve got to maintain consistency. We have a lot of guys playing both ways. We’ve just got to be physically and mentally tough enough to handle it and make it through four quarters,” Williams said.
Neal finished with 196 total yards of offense, 92 of those coming on the ground and 104 in the air. Hillcrest finished with 401 total yards, 132 of that rushing.
Ezekiel Smith led the Eagle offense with 3 receptions for 59 yards and one touchdown. Amon Craig contributed 1 reception for 35 yards, while Tyreke Williams added 1 reception for 10 yards and a touchdown.
The Eagles face off against Clark County in another region game at home this Friday. Kickoff is at 7p.m.