ELIZABETHTOWN — East Bladen will travel to Dunn on Friday for an early showdown in the opener of the Four County Conference, a game that will pit the 4-0 Eagles against 4-0 Midway.
“The first game of conference is always a big one to get off on the right foot,” East Bladen coach Robby Priest said. “Both teams know that and won’t want to get tagged with a quick loss.”
The Raiders, who outscored their non-conference opponents by a 112-56 margin this season, will offer up primarily a Wing-T or straight T offense that is led by a strong running attack.
“They kind of remind me of our backfield last season, with a big fullback and hard-running halfback,” Priest said.
The ground game is led by senior fullback Larry Blanks, who is 5-foot 10 inches and 229 pounds, and sophomore running back Shaking Warren, senior running back Akinlabi Olanipekun and senior running back Terrel McGee. The offense is guided by junior quarterback Austin Raynor who, at 6-4 and 175, can easily see over the defense — and when he does, he will often look for 6-3, 183 senior wide receiver Juane Summers.
“They will give us a different look than we’ve been seeing lately,” Priest said. “They don’t try to spread you out, their ground game will come right at us and they are good at what they do — which is why they are 4-0.”
On defense, Midway will line up in a 40 with variations and are led by junior linebacker Michael Kramer, 6-1 and 220, along with a host of two-way players like Blanks, Raynor, Olanipekun and Summers.
Priest said his Eagles, who outscored their non-conference foes by a 153-51 margin, have been working on a few aspects of their game this week in preparation for Friday’s matchup.
“Every week we are working to get better at what we do,” Priest said. “But we got into the red zone a few times last week and came away without any points, and that can’t happen. So we’ve been making some adjustments on offense to fix that.
“On defense, we didn’t tackle very well (last week), so that’s been an area we’ve concentrated on,” he added.
For East Bladen to post a win Friday, Priest said East Bladen will have to avoid turnovers, dominate the clock and execute on both sides of the ball.
Priest said the team will be at full strength for Friday’s game.
The Eagles moved up a spot, from No. 6 to No. 5, in The Associated Press Class 2-A rankings after last week’s 34-27 win over Wilmington Laney. East Bladen leapfrogged conference foe Clinton, who fell from No. 4 to No. 7 after the Dark Horses fell to Wilmington Hoggard, 24-21.
Can’t make it to Friday’s game? Catch it live on Cool 105.3 FM with the Bladen Sports Network crew of Ricky Leinwand, Robert Hester, Dan Allen, Joe Melvin and Ron Daniel. The pre-game show starts at 7 p.m. with the kickoff 30 minutes later.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.