WHITEVILLE — One big mistake put visiting East Bladen behind the eight ball against Whiteville on Friday in te Three Rivers Conference opener for both teams. But the Eagles responded with their usual three-headed monter — defense, running game and overpowering front line — to score twice in the second half and post a 14-6 win over the Wolfpack.
The win moves East Bladen to 3-0 overall, 1-0 in the conference. Whiteville falls to 2-1, 0-1.
Neither team’s offense could generate any points through the first 24 minutes of play, and would have gone to halftime knotted at 0-0 — except Whiteville took advantage of an Eagles second-quarter fumble, picking up the ball and returning it 78 yards for a touchdown.
A two-point conversion run failed, but the Wolfpack went into intermission up, 6-0.
Slowly but surely, the Eagles’ front line began wearing down Whiteville — opening holes on offense and penetrating on defense.
In the third quarter, East Bladen drove the ball deep into Wolfpack territory before fullback Xavia McDowell blasted into the end zone from 9 yards out. Pierce Melvin booted the extra point and gave the Eagles a 7-6 edge.
East Bladen added some icing to the cake in the fourth quarter when running back James Higgins scored on a 2-yard run. Melvin’s extra point put the Eagles up 14-6 and the defense made it stand up.
When asked about the story of the game, East Bladen coach Robby Priest was succinct with his answer.
“Defense,” he said.
The Eagles defense held Whiteville to less than 200 yards total offense, while the East Bladen ground game rushed for 266 yards — led by Higgins with 97 yards on 17 carries and Xavier Wooten’s 77 yards on 22 carries.
Quarterback Quinton Bedsole added 60 yards on 2-for-5 passing. He was also intercepted once.