The Falcons senior plans to treat his offensive linemen after they plowed the way for him to set a school record with six rushing touchdowns in Friday’s 48-0 win over Ben Franklin.
“It meant a whole lot,” Neal said of the record. “For one, our school, we’re not really known to be that great in sports. It felt good, but I’ve really got to thank my offensive line. They’re great. I always congratulate them. I tell them, ‘Good job’ and all that and they always pick me up. In school, we always hang around and I buy them pizza. You’ve got to take care of the big men.”
Center Matthew Gross, left guard Darius Wees, left tackle Demonte Noble, right tackle Derrick Johnson Jr. and right guard Chris Price will all be in on the pizza party.
In addition to being smart enough to spread the credit around, Neal, 5 feet 10, 195 pounds, is strong, quick and physical. He ran for 162 yards on only 10 carries Friday with his longest touchdown going for 57 yards.
“He has tree trunks for legs,” Falcons coach Donte’ Foster said. “He’s very fast. He’s very deceiving. He looks like he should probably be playing offensive line but he runs faster than any lineman I’ve seen. He probably runs faster than some of our receivers. He has great vision. He runs to score touchdowns.”
Neal said his team drew dual motivation heading into Friday’s game from making the playoffs last season and from their season-opening 66-14 loss at North Hagerstown, a game Foster said he scheduled to give them playoff-caliber competition in a playoff-caliber atmosphere, something the Falcons weren’t prepared for last year in the first round of the regional playoffs.
The Falcons, who play in Baltimore City’s Division II, face a tougher city foe this week when they travel to Forest Park, a team they have never beaten on the field. Last year, the Falcons fell 14-12 (although Forest Park later had to forfeit the game). With a veteran team returning from last year’s 8-2 squad, Neal figures they have a good shot at reversing that outcome.
“We have a lot of motivation going into that game,” Neal said. “After we lost to North Hagerstown, that was very hurtful. We had a nice little talk at the team meeting and we don’t want to feel like that no more, so we work extra hard.”
Foster said Neal sets the tone.
“Without a doubt he is the catalyst on our team,” the coach said. “He’s a leader both in the classroom and on the field. He has the drive and he’s a hard worker. You see it in the classroom by him having a 3.4 GPA, but he also takes that same attitude on the field.”
Neal isn’t quite satisfied with that GPA. He wants to boost it to 3.8 or 3.9. He figures that would help him get an academic scholarship to college if he doesn’t land one for football.
“I want to play in college,” Neal said. “I’m considereing Delaware. I would like to go there. Joe Flacco went there and my favorite team is the Ravens. I talked to a couple coaches there, but it starts in school though. I’ve got to maintain by GPA.”