For the first time since 2008, both East Bladen and West Bladen high schools have earned a berth in the state football playoffs.
The Eagles and Knights will compete out of the state’s Class 2-A bracket, which will open with round one on Friday.
East Bladen — which finished its regular season at 6-5 overall after an 0-3 start, and 5-2 in the Four County Conference that included the crown jewel of a 36-28 upset of Wallace-Rose Hill, then ranked as the No. 3 Class 1-A team in the state — has been seeded No. 14 and will face off against a familiar opponent in the Clinton Dark Horses, who finished the regular season at 7-3 and 6-1 in the Four County Conference and are seeded No. 3.
The Eagles traveled to Clinton earlier in the season and lost a heartbreaking 21-20 verdict when the Dark Horses scored a touchdown with about a minute left to play.
But the loss sparked a five-game winning streak by East Bladen that included the win over Wallace-Rose Hill and Friday’s 28-7 win over cross-county foe West Bladen in the regular-season finale.
East Bladen coach Robby Priest said he’s not surprised by the pairing against Clinton.
“Never surprised,” he said. “In the playoffs, you play what’s in front of you (and) it’s a one and done thing.”
The Knights, who haven’t been to the state playoffs in several years, drew the No. 16 seed and will travel to face the No. 1 seed Northeastern in Elizabeth City.
West Bladen, who completed the regular season at 5-6 overall and 3-4 in the Four County Conference — but ended the regular season on a three-game losing streak — last played in the state playoffs six seasons ago when they fell to Wilkes Central by a 47-33 margin.
West Bladen coach Russell Dove said his Knights have a big test in front of them.
“It’s a tough challenge ahead of us, but we’re excited,” Dove said. “It’ll be a long ride for a first-round matchup.”
The Eagles of Northeastern have scored 452 points this season and allowed just 137 points.