Running at full speed

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Florala senior quarterback Austin McNeill broke the 1,000-yard rushing mark during the Wildcats’ 32-21 win over Fruitdale Friday night. | File photo

Florala QB Austin McNeill breaks 1,000-yard mark

Florala may have ended its season Friday night, but senior quarterback Austin McNeill finished his high school career with a rush attack.

McNeill broke the 1,000-yard mark in the Wildcats’ 32-21 victory over Fruitdale at Mathews Stadium.

McNeill’s ability to read the Pirates’ defense and offensive knowledge in his milestone performance earned him The Star-News’ Player of the Week honors for a second time this season.

Florala ended its season with a 6-4 record this season, the best since 2007, and it seems the team and McNeill found a spark and won five of its last six games. FHS lost at heartbreaker to Kinston 14-12 in week six, a loss that would cost the team a playoff berth.

Though McNeill racked up an impressive year on offense, he was quick to give credit to those who made a way for him on the field.

“That was definitely a team effort,” he said. “My (offensive) line had to do a good job blocking for me. My (running) backs had to carry out good fades.

“The defense would have to commit to them for me to get around the end,” he said. “That would be how I got that stat.”

Just before halftime, McNeill broke for a 40-yard rush, which he said gave Florala some momentum going into the break.

At that point in time, the senior said he didn’t think the long run put him ahead.

“I really didn’t think that it put me on top of things as much as the team has,” McNeill said. “We were clicking on all cylinders, and we knew in the second half that we were going to pull it out.”

McNeill scored from 5 and 45 yards in the win over Fruitdale, and helped lead the Wildcats on an 88-yard, 8-minute drive late in the contest.

Like the game’s momentum started at halftime last week, McNeill said he started improving near week five and peaked at the end when it counts.

“I improved most this season, because toward the middle and definitely toward the end of the season, I began to understand the offense more and was able to make my reads better,” he said. “I could see the defense and understood how to change the different plays to maybe help us get more yards.”

McNeill said he’d like to play football at the next level, but if it doesn’t work out, he said he’d always get an education and work as an engineer.

Austin is the son of Lisa and Archie McNeill.