One down, two to go
Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 4, 2006
It took two overtimes and several key special teams plays, but the Fort Dale Eagles emerged victorious Friday night over the Macon-East Knights, 26-20.
The Eagles and the Knights got off to a slow start offensively, but if was the Macon-East special teams that got the night going with a blocked punt in the first quarter that resulted in a Fort Dale safety.
With a 2-0 lead, the Knights drove 50 yards for a touchdown, but after Blake Mullins blocked the extra point, Macon-East held only an 8-0 lead.
Less than a minute into the second quarter, Mullins took the hand off for Fort Dale and raced 59 yards for the touchdown and after quarterback Ty Newton connected with wide receiver Davis Watts for the two-point conversion, the score was tied at 8-8.
The Eagles were not finished.
On the ensuing kickoff, Fort Dale's Mika Jones delivered a crushing blow to the Macon-East return man, causing the fumble.
Jones took the hand off on the next play and sprinted 19 yards for the Eagle score. The extra point was blocked, giving the Eagles a 14-8 lead at the half.
In the second half, the Eagles and the Knights traded possessions and turnovers, but it was Macon-East who struck first in the fourth quarter with a 10-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 14-14. On the extra point, Mullins once again got through the line and blocked the attempt.
To close out regulation play, the Knights attempted a field goal for the win, but the kick went straight up, sending the game into overtime.
In overtime, the Eagles took the ball first and Newton connected with Adam Vickery for a 15-yard touchdown pass. On the ensuing two-point conversion, Mullins rushed the ball in for the score but the play was called back because the Eagles did not have enough men on the line of scrimmage and the second attempt fell short, giving the Knights the ball and a chance to win the ballgame.
Determined not to go home in the first round, the Eagle defense gave up the touchdown to Macon-East on a one-yard run but held the Knights on the two-point conversion to send the game into double overtime.
In the second overtime, Fort Dale once again took the ball first and Mullins punched it in from six yards out to give the Eagles a 26-20 lead after the two-point conversion failed.
With their backs against the wall, the Macon-East Knights drove the ball down to the goal line but the Fort Dale defense stiffened when Vickery picked off a pass on fourth down, thus securing the win.
“I'm proud of the way these guys fought tonight,” Fort Dale head coach James “Speed” Sampley said of his team. “We have won a bunch of close games this year and this one just worked out our way.”
Offensively for the Eagles, Mullins was the leading rusher with 125 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns while quarterback Ty Newton finished a perfect 3-of-3 for 32 yards and a touchdown.
For the Fort Dale defense, Barry Boan was the leading tackler with 16, while Dalton Gregory finished with 14 and Mullins finished with 11.
“This has been one of the most fun bunch of kids I have ever coached,” Sampley said. “They love each other, they are a joy to be around and I can honestly say there has not been a day where I regretted being out here,” Sampley said.
Following Friday night's win, the Eagles must now travel to Bessemer Academy to take on the No. 1 ranked Rebels in the semifinals of the Class AAA playoffs.
“If you want to win in Class AAA football, you have to go through Bessemer and Faith,” Sampley said.
Kickoff for Friday night's game at Bessemer is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.