ELIZABETH CITY — After a six-year absence from the state playoffs, the Knights of West Bladen were given a rude welcome back Friday by the Northeastern Eagles, 39-12, in the first round of the state’s Class 2-A East bracket.
The loss completes the Knights’ season at 5-7, while Northeastern moves on at 10-2.
The Eagles chewed up 3:47 of the clock to open the game, scoring on a 25-yard touchdown pass. The extra point put the home team up, 7-0.
But despite a six-hour bus ride and coming in as heavy underdogs, West Bladen should its grit by responding with an 80-yard drive that took just eight plays to punch the ball into the end zone. Highlighting the drive was a 12-yard and 19-yard run by Malcolm Vaught just moments before he finished off the march with a 25-yard scoring run. The extra point failed, but the Knights were within one at 7-6 with about 4:30 left in the first quarter.
The ensuing kickoff by West Bladen pinned the Eagles back on their own 5, but they didn’t take long to fly out from the shadow of their goalposts. One pass, in fact — a 95-yard touchdown strike that, after a two-point conversion was stopped, put Northeastern up, 13-6.
In the second quarter, the Eagles marched to pay dirt twice and the East’s top seed extended its lead to 26-6 as the first half was starting to wind down.
But before it could, West Bladen put together its second scoring drive, this one covering 80 yards in 13 plays. The march featured a 27-yard run by Malique McDowell and a 38-yard pass from Colby Lewis to Vaught. It was capped off by a 9-yard touchdown run from McDowell with just 27 seconds showing on the clock. The two-point conversion failed, and the Knights trailed by a 26-12 margin.
The second half started with Vaught on the West Bladen sidelines, hampered by an ankle injury.
In the third quarter, Northeastern began to salt the game away. The Eagles scored halfway into the third quarter on a 41-yard run and booted the extra pint for a 33-12 lead.
Then, as the game was winding down late in the fourth quarter, Northeastern tacked on an unneeded touchdown on a 64-yard run to finish off the win.
Vaught rushed for 77 yards on six carries and caught two passes for 52 yards before getting injured. McDowell rushed for 107 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.
Through the air, Lewis was 6-for-9 for 90 yards. Tavion Graham hauled in a pair of passes for 32 yards.