ELIZABETHTOWN - Over the past few games East Bladen has gotten off to slow starts in football games, but have come back to get big wins.
Friday night was a different story.
With less than five minutes gone off the clock in the first quarter, the Eagles had forced three West Bladen turnovers and scored three touchdowns en route to a 47-17 win over the Knights.
East Bladen’s Dajour Smith and James Hatcher combined for 326 yards and six touchdowns, in the contest that clinched the Southeastern 1-A/2-A Conference title for the Eagles.
Smith scored four touchdowns and gained 158 yards on 21 carries, while Hatcher ran for 168 yards and two touchdowns on 23 attempts for Coach Lenon Fisher’s Eagles who finished 6-0 in the league and are 10-1 overall. East had already clinched the top 1- A seed from the league.
The Knights dropped to 5-1 in the league and 6-4 overall. Coach Raymond Marlowe’s Knights will be the No. 1 2-A seed from the conference in the state playoffs.
West ran only three offensive plays before the Eagles took a 21-0 lead with 7:18 remaining in the first quarter.
“We played well and a good football team’s got to take advantage when you get some breaks,” Fisher said. “We kind of stunned West Bladen and got them back on their heels. It’s a big rivalry and our kids came out to play.”
The Eagles recovered a West fumble at the Knight’s 42 yardline on the third play of the game. Three plays later, Smith cut back up the middle and darted 27 yards for the first Eagle score. John Rains, who was good on 6-of-6 extra-point attempts, booted the extra point for a 7-0 East lead at the 9:57 left in the first quarter.
West couldn’t pick up the ensuing kick-off an Darrell Lesane recovered the ball at the Knight 28. After Jarmar Monroe picked up 19 yards, Hatcher powered off tackle for a four-yard touchdown run. Rains’ conversion made it 14-0 with 8:53 on the clock.
An onside kick bounced off a West Bladen player and was recovered by Chris Howard on the Eagle 49. A personal foul penalty and a 12-yard run by Hatcher highlighted a five-play drive that Smith capped with a four-yard run to the end zone. Rains tacked on the point to make it 21-0 with 7:18 remaining in the first period.
“We had a lot of stuff to overcome and we didn’t do a very good job of it,” West coach Raymond Marlowe said. “When you don’t execute, most of the time you get your butt handed to you. But I know my guys and they’ll be back next week.”
West’s Bryan Walton fielded the next short kick-off and his 10-yard return plus a face mask penalty put the Knights on the East 41.
Lorenzo Drew battered the left side for 13 yards, and the Knights reached the East eight yardline, before a penalty stalled the drive. Jared Carroll kicked a 33-yard field goal to trim the margin to 21-3 with 4:06 left in the first period..
A 24-yard run by Hatcher ignited a 70-yard nine-play march that ran the count to 28-3 with 16 seconds left in the period.
Smith’s 11-yard touchdown jaunt finished the drive and Rains added the conversion kick.
On their next possession the Knights were stopped on a fourth and one at their own 32. Smith dove over from the one-yardline to cap a six-play drive that featured a 14-yard carry by Hatcher. Rains’ kick pushed the lead to 35-3 8:59 before halftime.
Following the kick-off, West quarterback Josh Futrell connected with end Wayne McDonald on an 89-yard touchdown pass. McDonald hauled in the pass, pulled away from a defender and sprinted the final 60 yards down the right sideline. Carroll kicked the extra point to close the gap to 35-10 with 8:36 remaining in the half.
West’s Tyronne Freeman tackled Smith on fourth down at the Knights’ 23 to end the next East possession. Matt Futrell recovered an Eagle fumble later in the half to stop another East drive at the West 26.
The Eagles covered 59 yards in 10 plays to start the third period. Smith and Hatcher each had 13-yard runs, before Hatcher dashed 13 yards to up East’s lead to 41-7 with 7:36 left in the period. Bad snaps foiled the last two Eagle conversion attempts.
The Knights drove 41 yards to the East 28, before turning the ball over on downs. East answered with a 72-yard 14 play march.
Smith’s 18-yard run keyed the drive, and Javon Watson scored from the one-yard out to make the score 47-10 with 10:17 remaining.
Kendrick McKoy broke free down the right sideline and ran 50 yards to cap an 80-yard West drive. Vince Allen picked up 11 yards, and Drew rambled 16 more to begin the Knight march. Carroll’s conversion provided the final margin with 8:28 on the game.
East drove to the West five-yardline in the final minutes, before taking a knee on fourth down.
Drew topped the Knight runners with 79 yards on 12 carries, and McKoy cracked the 1000 yard mark for the season by gaining 68 yards on nine attempts. McDonald caught two passes for 104 yards.
East piled up 474 yards on the ground and finished with a 492-277 advantage in total yards.