ELIZABETHTOWN — Fairmont used a wild and woolly fourth quarter, turning two East Bladen fumbles into touchdowns, and nearly pulled off a Three Rivers Conference upset to ruin the Eagles’ homecoming on Friday.
But Shy Pone’s 74-yard kickoff return for a touchdown with with just under a minute to play, along with Pierce Melvin’s extra point, gave East Bladen a 42-38 win.
“I saw free space and just turned it on,” Pone said about his game-winning jaunt. “Just held the ball tight and headed for the corner.”
The scenario to set up Pone’s heroics were as improbable as anyone could have imagined.
East Bladen took a 28-14 lead into the fourth quarter and had moved the ball from its own 10 out to the 23. Two runs put the Eagles into a fourth-and-1 at their own 30 and East Bladen coach Robby Priest made the call to go for it — and Xavier Wooten busted up the middle for 7 yards.
Thirteen more runs — the biggest a 13-yard rumble by Xavia McDowell — finished off the 90-yard, 18-play march with a 1-yard touchdown run by McDowell with 3:56 left to play. Melvin’s PAT gave the Eagles a comfortable 35-14 advantage.
But Fairmont rose up.
Starting from their own 40, the Tornadoes five pass plays, including a 34-yard catch and run, to score a touchdown in barely more than a minute. The two-point pass was good and Fairmont was within 35-22 with 2:52 left.
The on-sides kick was controlled by East Bladen, but, on the very first play, a fumble was scooped up by the Tornadoes and returned 50 yards for a touchdown. Another two-point pass was good and the Eagles’ lead was sliced to 35-30 with 2:38 left to play.
Another on-sides kick was muffed by the Eagles and Fairmont got the ball at the East Bladen 49. Four runs and two passes marches the visitors to the end zone with 1:06 on the clock. The two-point pass was good again and Fairmont had taken a 38-35 lead.
That’s when Pone shone, as he took the kickoff on his own 26, stutter-stepped and then saw the opening. He burst up the middle and cut to the left — outracing everyone to the pylon and giving the Eagles a lead with 53 seconds left.
The Golden Tornadoes couldn’t get away from being stunned, as Dayveon Washington picked up a sack on the first play and, two plays later, Reashoid One got a strip-sack and Devonta McIver fell on the fumble to seal the game.
“The fans sure got their money’s worth if they stayed,” Priest said. “There were lots of distractions (with homecoming week) and our focus wasn’t good.
“I’m glad we had this happen,” he added.”We needed a shakeup and battle through toughness.”
East Bladen opened the game with two straight scoring drives. The first was an 80-yard, seven-play march — highlighted by a 34-yard pass from quarterback Sincere Smith to Wooten and a 19-yard run by Wooten — that ended with a 3-yard score by Wooten. Melvin’s PAT gave East Bladen a 7-0 edge with 4:09 left n the first quarter.
Adonis Avery got the ball back for the Eagles with an interception at the Fairmont 33, and East Bladen used seven plays to find the end zone on a 2-yard pass from Smith to Avery just inside the second quarter. Melvin’s kick was good and gave the Eagles a 14-0 lead.
Fairmont answered with a 57-yard march that found pay dirt with 8:02 left in the half. The two-point try failed and East Bladen held a 14-6 edge.
The Eagles responded with a 68-yard, six-play drive and, after a 27-yard pass from Smith to Tayshawn Berkeley, put the ball in the end zone on a 20-yard touchdown run by Wooten. Melvin booted the point after to give East Bladen a 21-6 lead with 4:26 to play in the half.
The Tornadoes kept things interesting with an 81-yard, 11-play drive and scored with just 43 seconds left in the half. The two-point pass was good and Fairmont was within 21-14.
But the visitors were penalized 15 yards after the play and kicked off from their own 25 — allowing East Bladen to set up on the Fairmont 45. Smith ran 9 yards and then hit Wooten with a 13-yard pass to the Tornadoes’ 23. A 7-yard run by Smith put the ball at the 16 and Melvin set up for a 32-yard field goal — that barely drifted right and missed as the half ended.
East Bladen took the second-half kickoff and Josh McKoy returned it 31 yards to the Eagles’ 48. From there, seven plays moved the ball to the Fairmont 1, where Eric Chancy ran the ball in for a touchdown. Melvin’s kick gave East Bladen a 28-14 advantage.
After the Eagles’ defense bent but didn’t break — turning back a Fairmont pass in the end zone — East Bladen took over on its 10 late in the third quarter. And things got crazy from there.
The win improved East Bladen to 6-1 overall and 4-1 in the conference, while Fairmont fell to 0-9 all-time against the Eagles and 3-4 overall this season, 2-3 in the conference.
Wooten led East Bladen’s ground game with 141 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. Chancy rushed for 67 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, while McDowell rushed for 60 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.
Smith was 5-for-7 trough the air for 72 yards and a touchdown.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-862-4163 or firstname.lastname@example.org.