ELIZABETHTOWN — Things went just about the way fans, players and coaches thought they would Friday when South Columbus came to town to battle East Bladen. From start to finish it was knock down, drag out, smash-mouth football — and the difference came down to a missed extra point.
The Stallions (4-0, 1-0) rode two second-half touchdowns to eek out yet another win over the Eagles (3-1, 1-1) — their third straight by a touchdown or less and second straight by one point — this one a 14-13 verdict.
Last season, South Columbus came to The Eagles Nest and came away with a season-opening 29-22 win; and 10 months ago, in the third round of the state’s Class 2-A playoffs, the Stallions took a 42-41 win in Tabor City.
On Friday, the two teams slugged it out in the trenches.
The East Bladen defense held the Stallions to just 3 yards on their first two possessions. The Eagles took their first possession at their own 32 and began marching — Xavier Wooten had runs of 8 and 13 yards, and Xavia McDowell had a 13-yard run before a fumble turned the ball over at the South Columbus 24.
The Eagles marched 44 yards in their second possession, but turned the ball over on downs at the Stallions’ 22.
South Columbus got something going, driving to the East Bladen 32 early in the second quarter on 11 plays, but after picking up a fourth and 2, the Eagles’ Sincere Smith intercepted a Stallions pass in the end zone and returned it to the 32 — but a blocking penalty moved the ball back to the East Bladen 11.
From there, the Eagles went three and out and punted. But South Columbus fumbled on the first play and East Bladen’s Davonta McIver at the Eagles’ 49. On the first play, quarterback Quinton Bedsole hit Xavier Wooten with a 23-yard catch and run to the Stallions’ 28. From there, nine runs — including two straight by James Higgins for 12 yards — moved the ball to the 2, and Higgins blasted in for the touchdown with 13.5 seconds left in the half. Pierce Melvin booted the PAT for a 7-0 East Bladen lead.
“Pretty good defense; they played hard,” said East Bladen defensive coordinator Lenon Fisher at halftime. “Hope for more of the same (in the second half). Have to see what kind of adjustments they make.”
After East Bladen’sopening possession went south quick and ended with an interception, South Columbus started at the Eagles 42 and needed just one play to take advantage of the turnover. A 42-yard run put the Stallions on the board and the extra point knotted the score at 7-7 just 1:10 into the second half.
East Bladen took possession at its own 29 and began marching. Fourteen plays and a couple of Stallions penalties moved the ball to the South Columbus 15 before East Bladen ran out of downs and turned the ball over.
The Stallions went three and out and punted to the Eagles’ 47, where Wooten ran for 3 yards, Trevares Carter rushed for 20 yards and Wooten finished it off with a 30-yard touchdown run. Melvin’s kick scraped the left upright and bounced away, but East Bladen was up 13-7 withe 1:45 left in the third quarter.
South Columbus answered right away.The Stallions, starting from their own 33, used nine plays — including a 19-yard run and 31-yard pass that everyone but the referees saw was an interception — and scored with 8:48 left in the game. The point after put the visitors up, 14-13.
The Eagles couldn’t do anything on offense, then watched as South Columbus ran out the clock.
“Two little defensive breakdowns,” East Bladen coach Robby Priest said. “But the defense played its heart out. We’ll make some adjustments and bounce back.”
Wooten led East Bladen’s ground game with 135 yards on 26 carries, while Carter had 36 yards on eight carries. Through the air, Bedsole was 1-for-8 for 23 yards with an interception.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or email@example.com.