ELIZABETHTOWN — So far, East Bladen has passed its early season gridiron tests with flying colors. Clinton? Beat. North Brunswick? Crushed. Whiteville? Whipped.
But the biggest test yet looms on Friday, when South Columbus comes to town for a Three Rivers Conference showdown between two undefeated teams — both sit at 3-0 overall and 1-0 in the conference.
“Oh yeah, this is a big one — but we see every week as a big one,” said Eagles coach Robby Priest.
The Stallions hold an 8-7 advantage in the overall series, including last season’s pair of instant classics. South Columbus came to The Eagles Nest to open the season in 2016 and escaped with a 29-22 win. The Stallions ended East Bladen’s season three months later, 42-41, in the third round of the state’s Class 2-A playoffs in Tabor City.
“We’re obviously hoping for a different outcome this time,” Priest said. “They are mirror images of us, so it’s going to be some serious smash-mouth football.”
The Stallions bring back plenty of experience from last season’s 12-3 squad that came up one step short of a state title game.
Running the offense out of the Wing T is 6-3, 210 quarterback Robby Spencer, who has 6-0, 235 fullback Seth Buffkin and running back Trequan Bellamy behind him.
“They have a lot of talent back and a lot of athletes,” Priest said.
The defense operates out of a 5-3 with a line that Priest says “is just plain huge.” Across the line are the likes of 6-2, 320 Dalton Worley; 6-3, 310 Evan Hardee; 6-5, 300 Ty Worley; and 6-1, 290 Josiah Small.
“We’ll certainly have our hands full,” Priest said. “I’d love to see a good home crowd to help us out.”
Priest said his keys in this game are going to have to be a solid defense and no turnovers on offense.
“We can’t turn the ball over seven times like we did against Whiteville (six fumbles and one interception),” he said. “That was enough for the entire season.”
South Columbus and East Bladen will kick off Friday at 7 p.m.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-862-4163 or firstname.lastname@example.org.