ELIZABETHTOWN — East Bladen coach Robby Priest was looking to beef up the Eagles’ non-conference schedule, and when East Bladen holds its home opener on Friday, there will be plenty of beef looking the Eagles in the face.
Whiteville, an 11-3 and third-round playoff team from a year ago, will visit Lenon Fisher Stadium still licking its wounds from a season-opening 28-19 loss to North Brunswick.
“I wanted a good, tough non-conference schedule, because I think it will help us once conference starts,” Priest said. “Whiteville is a regular on our schedule and always gives us a tough game. They don’t want to start 0-2, so they will be ready for us.”
The Wolfpack is trying to find someone to fill the big shoes of workhorse running back Terrin Manning, and so far that task has fallen mostly on sophomore Keshawn Bellamy. But returning at quarterback is senior Nydir Carr, who can create plenty of offensive havoc on his own — either by land or air.
“Their quarterback is athletic and can do a lot,” Priest said.
The offense will utilize the shotgun and spread teams out with a balance of run and pass options. Priest said they will also use the jet sweep, so the Eagles will have to be ready for anything.
Whiteville returns most of a defense that gave up just 170 points in 14 games last season, and the linebacking corps of senior Andrew Powell, senior Garrett Wilson and sophomore Monchovia Gaffney leads the defensive unit.
“They have a great defense and the whole team is well-coached,” said Priest, who added that the Wolfpack will line up in a 40 with variations.
After a 36-6 win over South Columbus last week, Priest said he’s “happy to get the first win on the road behind us,” but he added that there is still plenty of room for improvement.
“We need to get a lot sharper and crisper with our tackling and execution,” Priest said. “But the kids are working hard and we’ll keep getting better.”
east Bladen’s keys to beating Whiteville on Friday, according to Priest, include avoiding penalties and turnovers, executing on both sides of the ball and winning the special teams battles.
“Anytime two good teams meet, it often comes down to special teams,” Priest said. “We can’t give up big plays on special teams.”
East Bladen is expected to be at full strength Friday night. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.
— W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.