“I had to redeem myself,” he said.
After being bottled up by the Bruins’ defense in a 28-0 loss, Neal spent the week studying defensive film and working a little bit harder in practice. That extra effort showed in the Bulldogs’ 28-26 victory at South River Friday night, when he ran for 158 yards and three touchdowns.
“I didn’t want to dwell on the loss last week,” the senior running back said. “I just wanted to use it as motivation and do better this week.”
Neal leads Anne Arundel County with 12 touchdowns through the first half of the regular season, more than all but four players in the area. A speed back with enough strength to be effective between the tackles, his penchant for finding the end zone has helped Southern (3-2) equal its win total from last season in just five games.
“Last year, we moved the ball fairly well but we needed to finish drives off and score,” Coach Russ Meyers said. “We were pretty good at getting the ball inside the opponent’s 20-yard-line, but we needed to punch it in and finish things off, and I think we’re doing a much better job of that this year.”
The Seahawks (1-4) scored twice in the fourth quarter Friday night but lost on a failed two-point conversion with 45 seconds left. Southern’s defensive stand and onside kick recovery sealed the win, but the catalyst was Neal, who eclipsed 150 rushing yards for the third time in five games.
“He’s pretty quiet, doesn’t say too much, but he kind of leads by example. He works hard,” Meyers said. “As a coach, that’s what you want.”
Neal and the Bulldogs will face their toughest test yet this Friday night, when they host No. 17 Meade.
The six games in Anne Arundel County last Friday night were decided by an average of 31 points, the highest average point differential in the county since Week 9 of the 2012 regular season.
“It was kind of shocking, some of the scores,” Mustangs Coach Rich Holzer said, “but at the same time, I think some teams with talent are starting to get it going, starting to get organized, starting to click on all cylinders.”
Among them is Arundel, a relatively young team that lost several key playmakers to graduation last year. Since falling to No. 15 Old Mill, the Wildcats have won three games by an average of 43 points.
“We’re getting better,” Coach Chuck Markiewicz said. “We’re young, so we started kind of slow. It’s starting to work out.”