ELIZABETHTOWN — Friday’s first-round playoff game at Lenon Fisher Stadium between East Bladen and visiting James Kenan was a heavy dose of a ground game against a heavy dose of a passing game. In the end, the Eagles’ ground game prevailed, 39-33.
The win improved the Eagles to 11-1, while James Kenan finished the season 3-8.
East Bladen ran the ball for 418 yards — led by Xavier Wooten’s 250 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries, along with Eric Chancy’s 148 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries.
The Tigers, meanwhile, threw for 348 yards but could find no running game against the Eagles.
James Kenan opened the game with a punch to the East Bladen gut, marching 67 yards in six plays — highlighted by a 46-yard pass — and scored just 2:05 into the game. The PAT gave the visitors a 7-0 edge.
The Eagles answered with one of their patented 11-play, 80-yard drives featuring a 14-yard run by Wooten and 5-yard touchdown run by Chancy. Pierce Melvin’s extra point was no good, but East Bladen was within 7-6 with 5:57 left in the first quarter.
The Tigers came right back with a 12-play drive that covered 66 yards and scored with 2:11 left in the quarter. The kick was no good, but James Kenan held a 13-6 lead.
Sincere Smith took the ensuing kickoff at the Eagles’ 4 and raced 41 yards to the 45, where East Bladen took over.Wooten took the first handoff and scampered 11 yards, then took the second handoff and ran 44 yards for a touchdown. Melvin’s kick was good to knot the game at 13-13 with 1:03 left in the first quarter.
The Tigers took possession at their own 30 and, on the first play, Xavia McDowell got a sack for a 3-yard loss. After a pass play lost 2, McDowell got another sack, this time for a 4-yard loss, and James Kenan was forced to punt.
East Bladen began at the Tigers’ 36 and, on the first play, Wooten took the handoff and ripped off a 36-yard touchdown run. Melvin’s kick gave the Eagles their first lead, 20-13, with 10:59 left in the half.
James Kenan took possession at its own 47 and quickly moved to the East Bladen 29 before a 13-yard loss on a sack by Caleb Strait on third down and incomplete pass on fourth down gave the ball back to the Eagles at their own 47.
Wooten had a 24-yard run and Chancy added a 12-yard dash before Chancy’s8-yard run found the end zone with 6:32 left in the second quarter. Melvin’s kick was blocked, but East Bladen went up, 26-13.
Neither team could threaten before halftime and the Eagles took the 13-point advantage into the locker room.
“Too many stupid penalties,” East Bladen coach Robby Priest said at halftime.
Smith gathered in the second half’s opening kickoff for the Eagles and returned it 40 yards to the James Kenan 49. Seven plays took East Bladen down to the Tigers’ 19, but a fourth-and-7 came up short and the Eagles turned the ball over on downs.
James Kenan took advantage, marching 82 yards on 10 plays and scored with 3:42 left in the third quarter. The point after was good and pulled the Tigers to within 26-20.
An on-sides kick was recovered by the Tigers at midfield, but Jordan Robinson picked off a James Kenan pass and returned it 47 yards to the Tigers’ 18. Two plays later, Chancy raced 17 yards for a touchdown with 2:43 left in the quarter. Melvin’s kick was blocked again, but East Bladen had opened a 32-20 lead.
The visitors responded with an 11-play, 76-yard drive that featured eight passes and found pay dirt just 1:40 into the fourth quarter. The kick was good and pulled the Tigers to within 32-26.
East Bladen recovered the on-sides kick at its own 43 and went on a 57-yard, seven-play drive that culminated in a 31-yard touchdown run by Wooten with 7:28 left to play. Melvin added the PAT to give the Eagles a 39-27 lead.
James Kenan would answer, despite a sack by Wooten on the first play of the possession. The Tigers used seven passes and two runs to cover 79 yards and score a touchdown with 4:21 to play. The extra point was no good, but East Bladen’slead was cut to 39-33.
Kenan’s on-sides kick never went 10 yards and was recovered at the Tiger’s 47 by Chancy. From there, East Bladen ran six plays to move the ball to the visitors’ 11 before taking a knee and running out the clock.
“I’m not going to say what I want to say,” Priest said. “It was like a pitch and catch with no resistance.
“But .. we won and we’re moving on,” he added. “It sure wasn’t pretty.”
The Eagles will now host a second-round playoff game Friday against Greene Central, 8-4.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-862-4163 or email@example.com.