ELIZABETHTOWN — Xavier Wooten ran for 118 yards and two touchdowns, Quinton Bedsole passed for 99 yards and a touchdown and the Eagles defense shut down the visiting Knights in the second half to lift East Bladen to a 48-12 win on Friday.
The Eagles finished the regular season at 10-1 overall and 8-1 in the Three Rivers Conference — good enough for a three-way tie with Whiteville and South Columbus for the conference crown. A drawing of numbers in Whiteville after the games gave East Bladen the No. 1 seed out of the conference, while South Columbus took the No. 2 seed and Whiteville got the No. 3 seed.
The Knights offense went nowhere on its first possession and made matters worse when the punter took off on a run that came up 10 yards short on a fourth-and-13. That gave the ball to East Bladen at the visitors’ 20, and it took the Eagles just two plays to score. A 14-yard pass from Bedsole to Sincere Smith gained 14 and, after a West Bladen penalty put the ball at the Knights’ 3, Trevores Carter ran the ball in from there. Pierce Melvin’s PAT gave East Bladen a 7-0 lead just 2:21 into the game.
West Bladen answered with a 13-play, 68-yard drive that featured an 11-yard run by Dayvon Swindell, 23-yard scamper by Kerron Washington and a fourth-down conversion before quarterback Tyre Boykin scored on a 2-yard keeper. The Eagles’ James Higgins blocked the extra point, but West Bladen was within 7-6 with 2:32 left in the first quarter.
The Knights kept the momentum when their kickoff was fumbled and Jimmy Williams fell on the ball at the East Bladen 26.
But on the second play, Boykin’s pass was intercepted by Sincere Smith when he took it off the grass tops on a dive at the 14. East Bladen took advantage with a seven-play, 86-yard march that found the end zone on the second play of the second quarter, a 53-yard run by Devonta McIver. Melvin’s kick gave the Eagles a 14-6 lead with 11:19 left in the half.
West Bladen took over at its own 20 and moved out to the 32 before stalling, but on the punt play East Bladen was penalized, giving the Knights new life. Still, the Eagles defense stiffened and forced a punt that set East Bladen up at its own 27.
Nine plays took the Eagles to pay dirt, thanks in part to a 15-yard Knights penalty. Wooten finished the drive with a 3-yard run and Melvin’s kick gave East Bladen a 21-6 edge with 2:32 left in the half.
The Knights started at their own 24 and couldn’t move anywhere. A third-down pass was intercepted by Eric Chancy and returned 30 yards for an Eagles touchdown. Melvin booted the point after and East Bladen led 28-6 with 1:58 left in the second quarter.
West Bladen recovered a squib kick at its own 42 and, after two plays moved the ball to midfield, B.J. Drake got loose for a 50-yard touchdown run with 1:21 left in the half. The two-point play was no good, but the Knights had pulled to within 28-12, which is where the half ended.
Adonis Avery gathered in the opening kickoff of the second half for East Bladen and returned it 26 yards to the West Bladen 38. Bedsole found Smith racing all alone down the middle of the field and hit him for a 38-yard touchdown. Melvin’s kick gave East Bladen a 35-12 advantage just 15 seconds into the third quarter.
Nothing went right for the Knights on their next possession. Three plays went 4 yards and, on the resulting punt, a bad snap gave McIver the chance to stuff the punt and tackle the punter for a 12-yard loss.
East Bladen took over at the Knights’ 20 and, on the third play, Chancy scored on a 9-yard run. The kick was kissed, but the Eagles were u 41-12 with 9:45 left in the third quarter.
After shutting down West Bladen again, the Eagles took over at the Knights’ 37 and used four plays to score, the final play a 13-yard touchdown run by Wooten. Melvin added the OAT to give East Bladen a 48-12 lead.
B.J.Robinson got a sack against West Bladen on the Knights’ next possession to stifle any threat, and an Eagles fumble was recovered by the Knights’ to end the Eagles’ next drive — all but ending the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, West Bladen drove from its own 40 to the Eagles’ 2 behind an 18-yard run by Swindell, 15-yard pass from Boykin to Washington and a 9-yard pass from Boykin to Nelson Drake. But on fourth and goal, a pass play fell incomplete to give East Bladen a stop and possession.
The Eagles drove 79 yards to the West Bladen 19 before a fumble was recovered by the Knights’ Jonathan Robinson. West Bladen moved the ball 29 yards out to midfield before the clock expired.
“I was happy with how the offense looked; happy we got Quinton’s confidence back; and te offensive line looked good,” said East Bladen coach Robby Priest. “But overall, (the offense and defense) doesn’t seem to have a killer instinct, and I’m not sure we can find that in a week.”
Wooten led the Eagles ground game with the 118 yards on 14 carries, while Chancy added 90 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. Overall, East Bladen outrushed the Knights by a 336-231 margin.
Bedsole was 4-of-5 passing for the 99 yards.
“We played well early but, by the middle of the third quarter, things started to come apart for us,” said West Bladen coach Kris Williams.
Drake led West Bladen’s ground game with 130 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries, followed by Swindell with 46 yards on seven carries.
Through the air, Boykin was 4-of-11 for 27 yards and two interceptions.
West Bladen finishes its season 4-7 overall and 2-6 in the conference.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-862-4163 or firstname.lastname@example.org.