McNeill breaks 1,000-yard mark, Wildcats win finale
Published 10:02 am Monday, November 5, 2012
Florala senior quarterback Austin McNeill broke the 1,000-yard mark rushing for the season as the Wildcats beat the playoff-bound Fruitdale Pirates 32-21.
Florala relied heavily on the ground game all night long and both teams found the end zone on every first half possession. Twice the Fruitdale defense appeared to have stopped the Wildcats, only to the Wildcats’ offense wiggle their way down the field.
Florala faced fourth-and-30 and was forced to punt, but a flag was thrown on Fruitdale for roughing the kicker, giving the Wildcats a fresh set of downs. The second came on a fourth-and-six play from the Fruitdale 45-yard line with just 6.5 seconds left in the first half when McNeill, on a quarterback keeper, broke through the first wave of defenders, then knifed his way through the secondary on his way to the end zone as time expired in the half.
McNeill got the scoring started on the first possession as he put the ball in from five yards out, giving the Wildcats an 8-0 advantage.
Fruitdale responded with quarterback Braden Turner leading the drive 63-yards before punching the ball in from one yard.
The Wildcats’ second possession ended just like the rest of their first half drives, with a touchdown. This time it was Austin West running the ball in from six yards.
Following the Wildcats’ touchdown, Fruitdale answered, again on the legs of Turner with an 11-yard score.
The first half came to a close with McNeill’s last second 45-yard touchdown giving the Wildcats a 24-15 lead heading into halftime.
Coming out after halftime the Wildcats’ defense really stepped up, forcing a three-and-out and punt on Fruitdale’s opening drive of the second half.
After Fruitdale forced a punt the Wildcats’ defense held their ground again forcing another punt. Senior Matthew Gibbs had a big sack on the drive and junior Kyle Price broke up a pass in the end zone to force fourth down.
Following the punt the Wildcats’ offense went right back to the ground with McNeill leading an 88-yard drive that took nearly eight minutes off the clock and Desmond “Showtime” Smiley capped the drive off with a five-yard touchdown.
Fruitdale would find the end zone one final time when Turner connected on a 22-yard touchdown pass leaving Fruitdale trailing 32-21.
“I’m really proud the way our defense played in the second half they really responded,” said Florala head coach Justin Jones. “We just beat a playoff team for the first time since 2007 and we have our first winning season since then, and these kids from 7th grade through 11th grade have never been able to say that, now they can.”