Eagles thump Shelby on Homecoming night

Published 12:46 am Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Fort Dale Eagles put a happy ending on the regular season and homecoming with a solid 44-28 victory over Shelby Academy.

Paul Whigham got the game started off right for the Eagles with a 29-yard end around on the first play of the game.

Whigham not only gained yards on the ground, he also collected three catches for 44 yards.

The Eagles took the first drive down the field and capped it with a one-yard run from Jeffrey Stead.

After an extra point from Sean McKeague, FDA led 7-0.

All season, the passing game has been a focus for the Eagles, and it finally clicked against Shelby.

That was evident on the Eagles’ next drive, when Dustin Till lofted a pass to Todd Burkett, who caught it and ran in for an 83-yard score and a 13-0 lead.

Fort Dale’s defense also proved to be just as adept at catching passes — Daniel Nolan ended the first half with a pick near midfield.

The ensuing drive stalled and McKeague missed a field goal, but an offside penalty gave him another shot.

McKeague made good on the 28-yard attempt to put FDA up 16-0.

A snap over the head of Shelby Academy’s punter put the Eagles in business at Shelby’s 31-yard line, and Stead later punched it in from two yards out for a 23-0 lead with 6:19 left in the first half.

Daniel Nolan scored on a nine-yard run and a screen pass just before the end of the half to give FDA 37 points, but the Eagles also gave up touchdown on a 55-yard fumble return and an 89-yard kickoff return.

The Raiders fought back in the second half, but Fort Dale kept them at bay.

Following an interception by Burkett, the Eagles set up shop on the Shelby County 14-yard line.

FDA converted on a key fourth down near the five-yard line and Manny Norrell scored from a yard out to put Fort Dale up 44-21 with 2:58 to play in the game.

Shelby County played hard all the way to the end of the game, scoring with 0:14 remaining to make the final score 44-28.

“I don’t think we played with the intensity that we had last week, but it can be tough to put two weeks like that together,” said head coach Speed Sampley. “But we have to do that now that the playoffs are here. It’s win or go home now.”

Till racked up 250 yards passing on the night, and Sampley said he was pleased with the passing game and balance of the offense as a whole.

“Dustin played well for us at times,” he said. “We lost focus as a team in the second half, and didn’t get a whole lot accomplished. We didn’t play badly, we just didn’t play to our potential.”

Burkett was on the receiving end of 92 of those passing yards from Till, and he also pulled down two interceptions.

Leading the defense in tackles was Kendall Gibson with 14.

The Eagles host Morgan Academy next week in the first round of the playoffs.