Doss has a bye next week to rest up for the playoffs.
Philip Neal may be the best high school football player in Louisville that no one talks about. But he had the Doss stadium buzzing Friday night.
The 5-foot-8 senior returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown and critical momentum swing to lead the host Dragons to a 39-28 victory over Fairdale.
It came when the Bulldogs (5-4, 4-1 in Class 4-A, District 4) were at the Dragons 6 and primed to tie the game. Neal picked off Dylan Garcia’s pass 5 yards deep in the endzone and eluded tacklers as he made his way down the sideline.
The pick-six made it 33-20 and gave the Dragons (4-6, 4-1) much needed breathing room.
“He may be the best all-around” player, Doss coach Phillip Hawkins said. “Philip is a football player… He’s a kid that you can line him up at receiver, line him up at safety. He played quarterback for us for a few games. He’s a great running back. He’s one of the most talented all-around kids that I’ve coached.”
And Neal got the Dragons started early, too. After an upfield blocker inadvertently touched the opening kickoff, Neal gathered it at the Dragons 16 and nearly scored before being pushed out at the Fairdale 1. Four plays later, Tre Taylor connected with Tyler Jefferson on a 6-yard pass that gave the Dragons an 6-0 lead with 9:41 left in the first quarter.
The Dragons expanded the lead to 20-0 early in the second quarter before Fairdale stormed back with a big play and capitalized off a fluke play. Less than a minute after Taylor hit Jefferson to give Doss a three-score lead, Garcia found Max Cole behind the Dragons’ secondary for a 63-yard touchdown with 8:05 left in the first half.
At the end of the first half, the Bulldogs took advantage of a punt that lost 21 yards to put them at the Doss 5. Two plays later, Garcia found Trey Norton to cut the Dragons’ lead to 20-14 with :21 left in the half.
“I knew that we would come back and fight,” Fairdale coach Matthew Wright said. “You hate to start like that. It creates a point where you have to fight like that.”
Fairdale got the ball to start the second half, but fumbled on its first play from scrimmage. Doss responded with a five-play, 56-yard drive that ended with Taylor connecting with Bryson Kirby on a 13-yard touchdown to make it 27-14 with 9:02 left in the third quarter.
But Fairdale again bounced back with Norton returning the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for a score. After forcing a three-and-out, Fairdale appeared on the verge of tying the game.
But Neal, who also ran for 121 yards, had other plans.
“He’s always big every game,” said Taylor, who finished with 23 of 31 passing for 375 yards, four passing touchdowns and a rushing score.
Doss has a bye next week to rest up for the playoffs. Fairdale, which may still win the district, finishes with Bullitt East.
FAIRDALE – 0 14 6 8 – 28
at DOSS – 14 6 13 6 – 39
Doss – Tyler Jefferson 6 pass from Tre Taylor (kick failed); Doss – Taylor 6 run (Philip Neal pass from Taylor); Doss – Jefferson 18 pass from Taylor (kick blocked); Fairdale – Max Cole 63 pass from Dylan Garcia (Cole kick); Fairdale – Trey Norton 5 pass from Garcia (Cole kick); Doss – Bryson Kirby 13 pass from Taylor (Dominic Paniccia kick); Fairdale – Norton 85 kickoff return (run failed); Doss – Neal 100 interception return (kick failed); Doss – Terrell Gray 5 pass from Taylor (pass failed); Fairdale – Anthony Smith 15 pass from Garcia (kick blocked); Fairdale – Safety, Kyron Parris tackled in the end zone.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect the correct score. Doss won 39-28.