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Bessemer blanks Eagles

The Fort Dale Eagles came in to Friday night's game looking for a way to shut down Bessemer's leading rusher, Walter Arrington and for most of the game they accomplished that. But in the end their defense gave up too many big plays to the defending Class AAA champs and their offense sputtered only racking up 98 total yards on their way to a 20-0 loss in their home opener.

"Everything they had was a big play," said Eagles' head coach James "Speed" Sampley. "They didn't have anything that was sustained. Those three or four big plays will kill you. We can't make that many mistakes and beat a good football team."

Bessemer (2-0), who shut out Pickens Academy 37-0 in their season opener, struck first on their third series of the game. After forcing the Eagles to punt, the Rebels took over at their own 45 and drove to the Eagles' 24 yard line with the help of a personal foul penalty. Rebel's quarterback Corey Patterson capped the 7-play, 55-yard drive with a keeper from 7-yards out. The Rebels added a two-point conversion to go up 8-0 with two ticks left in the first quarter.

The Eagles (1-1) shot themselves in the foot on the next series fumbling on the first play of their drive. Paul Bennett recovered for the Rebels, but the Eagles' defense stiffened as Peter McGowin and Blake Conway combined to drop Rebels' running back Vincent Cook for a loss. On fourth-and-12, McGowin shot up the middle and blocked the Rebels' punt and the Eagles' recovered on the Rebels' 15-yard line, but a holding penalty backed Fort Dale up and they were forced to punt.

On their next series, Patterson called his own number for the Rebels on third-and-15 taking the ball 25 yards into Eagles' territory. After a 35-yard pass play from Patterson to Cook, Arrington scored from five yards out to cap a 12-play, 81-yard drive..

Rebels' head coach Mark Freeman said his team's effort was good, but they played too sloppy.

"We played ragged," said Freeman, referring to his team's nine penalties for 80-yards. "In the first half we moved the ball well, but you can't have the penalties we had. Overall we played hard, but good teams don't play like that."

The Eagles' had their opportunities in the second half thanks to good defensive play, including an interception by Eagles' defensive back Taylor Hawsey to stop a Bessemer drive, but the Eagles gave the ball up on the next play when Derrick Jones intercepted a pass by Brady Newton to set the Rebels up at the Eagles' 48-yard line. The Eagles forced a punt, but never broke in to Rebel territory the remainder of the game.

Bessemer capped the scoring late in the game when Patterson took it in from 24-yards out on fourth-and-12. The PAT failed as the Rebels completed their second straight shutout tallying 274-yards of total offense.

Newton led the Eagles' defensive effort with 16 tackles and McGowin added 14.

"We played with a lot of heart tonight," Newton said. "We had a few stupid mistakes, but we're going to push ourselves and be really good in the end."

McGowin agreed, saying the big plays are what made the difference, but said the team's efforts in stopping Arrington was solid.

"Arrington may be the best back in the AISA, but our defense is designed to gang tackle and with effort you can stop anybody," he said. "We just gave them a couple of plays that hurt us in the end."

Fort Dale opens region play next week with a road trip to Hooper while Bessemer hosts Edgewood in a rematch of last year's state championship. Both teams are slated to kick off at 7 p.m.