Wildcats down Tigers

Published 12:28 am Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Florala Wildcats enter the field before they beat Red Level 40-14 last night. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Florala scored two touchdowns within the first three minutes of the first quarter and the Wildcats rolled to a 40-14 homecoming victory Friday night at Mathews Stadium.

Red Level was looking for a much-needed win over the Wildcats, but FHS stopped the Tigers on defense, holding them to 88 yards in the first half.

With this victory, FHS improves to 3-3 overall, and 1-3 in Class 1A, Region 2. This was the first time since 2005 that FHS beat RLS, especially in back-to-back seasons. RLS falls to 0-6 overall, and 0-4 in the region.

Leading up to the game Friday night, FHS head football coach Justin Jones said his team’s offense really practiced well.

“We were very crisp all week offensively,” Jones said. “Practice and preparation were the keys for us. We’ve been playing better. It’s amazing.”

How the Wildcats strutted to a 20-0 lead by the 4-minute mark of the first quarter was simple.

Desmond Smiley found a hole in the middle and drove the field 54 yards for Florala’s first touchdown of the night.

After Red Level got a three and out on its first offensive possession of the game, Florala got the ball back in terrible field position.

However, Wildcats senior quarterback Austin McNeill saw another opening down the middle and hit pay dirt for a 95-yard touchdown rush with 9:16 to go in the first quarter. Austin West got the 2-point conversion and FHS led 14-0.

Red Level couldn’t get anything going on its next offensive possession, and after a 58-yard gain by West on the Wildcats’ next offensive series, FHS found the end zone again on a 24-yard dash by Smiley for his second and the team’s third TD of the night. The 2-point conversion failed and FHS led 20-0 with 4:45 left in the first quarter.

RLS junior lineman Tim Sims said early on it was a lack of execution on the Tigers part in the first half, and that the team will get back to work next week.

“We’ll hit it hard at practice next week,” Sims said. “We’re just going to do the best we can — make the best out of the season.”

Florala added another TD, this time on a pass from McNeill to Tamaris Jamison, who took it 58 yards down the middle with 9:54 left in the first half. McNeill completed a pass to Avery McNeill for the 2-point conversion and the Wildcats led 28-0.

After West picked off a pass from Red Level’s Caleb Varner, the Wildcats got the ball back and made the Tigers pay for it with more than 5 minutes left.

West originally had a 77-yard TD rush, but his team was caught holding at the 5:30 mark.

No matter, though, for the Wildcats. McNeill found Jamison again on a pass for 77 yards and a touchdown. The Wildcats led 34-0 and took this huge lead with them into half time.

Red Level head football coach Tony Ingram, who sat in the press box the entire first half because of health reasons, said he challenged his players to play well in the second half. That was the first time Ingram has been in the press box for a game since he was an assistant coach.

“I don’t like it up there,” Ingram said. “It’s too far away.

“We got down there in half time with a gut check and played the second half like I thought we could play,” he said. “Right now, there’s no secret to what we do. We’ re going to line up and run right at you. They knew what we were going to do and we had little success.”

The Tigers played a lot better, finally getting a first down on their first offensive series of the third quarter.

At the tail end of the first drive, Varner found the end zone from 10 yards out and Kn’yn Jones scampered in for the 2-point conversion and the Tigers trailed 34-8 with 6:12 left in the third.

On Florala’s second play of its next series, West scooted in from 35 yards for a touchdown with 5:14 left to give the Wildcats their last score of the night.

The Tigers, after scoring one last TD with 11:07 left in the fourth on a 9-yard TD rush from Jones, stepped it up on defense, holding the Wildcats at bay.

“I feel good about the way they responded,” Ingram said. “I hope we can get every body back and healthy. We just want to finish the season strong.”

Smiley finished with 76 yards on three carries and two touchdowns; McNeill rushed 107 yards on four carries and had one touchdown; and Jamison had two receptions for 135 yards and two TDs.

In passing, McNeill was 3-of-4 for 138 yards and two touchdowns.

Jones led RLS with 70 yards on 17 carries and one touchdown.

“I’m just proud of our kids,” Jones said. “We’re getting a lot of effort out of some of them. Were playing good football.”

Red Level hosts Georgiana, while Florala visits Kinston in region action next week.