ELIZABETHTOWN — East Bladen’s ground game chewed up 569 yards Friday, led by Xavier Wooten’s 320 yards and six touchdowns on 28 carries, and the Eagles pummeled visiting Greene Central 68-28 in the second round of the NCHSAA Class 2-A East playoffs.
The win improves East Bladen to 12-1 and sends the Eagles into the third round the day after Thanksgiving, where they will host 10-3 Southwest Onslow, a 63-28 winner over Southwest Edgecombe.
East Bladen played Friday like it had a chip on its collective shoulders after the previous week’s narrow 39-33 win over James Kenan. But before the game was put under control by the Eagles, the two teams traded touchdowns within the first 27 seconds and put 43 points on the board in the first quarter alone.
“I had visions of a shootout after (the James Kenan) game,” East Bladen coach Robby Priest said. “But I think we learned some things in that game.”
Josh McKoy took the game’s opening kickoff for the Eagles at his own 18 and raced 31 yards to the East Bladen 49. On the first play from scrimmage, quarterback Quinton Bedsole dropped back and hit Sincere Smith for a 51-yard catch and run that found the end zone just 15 seconds into the game. Pierce Melvin booted the PAT to give the Eagles a quick 7-0 edge.
But the Rams wasted no time — or just 12 seconds — to answer, running the kickoff back 74 yards for a touchdown. A two-point run gave Greene Central an 8-7 lead.
East Bladen took possession at its own 36 and went on a 64-yard, seven-play drive that featured a 17-yard and 18-yard run by Wooten before the senior back scored on a 2-yard run. Melvin’s kick was good and the Eagles took a 14-8 lead with 8:54 left in the first quarter.
The Rams responded with a 61-yard, eight-play march that culminated with a touchdown that knotted the score. The extra point gave the visitors a 15-14 lead with 6:37 still to play in the quarter.
Back came the Eagles. After a penalty pushed them back to their own 14, two runs by Eric Chancy moved the ball to the East Bladen 37 and, on the next play, Wooten broke loose for a 63-yard touchdown run that gave the Eagles the lead for good. Melvin’s kick gave East Bladen a 21-15 advantage with 5:17 left in the first frame.
The Eagles’ defense all but took over at that point. Holding the Rams to a three-and-out, a 21-yard punt was gathered in by a full-steam-ahead Jordan Robinson, who ran the kick back 33 yards to the Greene Central 27.
It took East Bladen just three plays to find pay dirt, this time on a 9-yard run by Chancy. Melvin’skick gave the Eagles a 28-15 lead with 2:18 left in the first quarter.
East Bladen against held the Rams to a three-and-out and a 17-yard punt set the Eagles up on their own 45. Eight plays, seven coming early in the second quarter, moved East Bladen to the Rams’ 15 and set up Bedsole’s touchdown pass to Tayshaun Berkeley in the corner of the end zone. Melvin kicked the point after to give East Bladen a 35-15 lead with 8:03 left in the half.
But the Eagles’ kickoff team bent and broke again, allowing Green Central to weave its way 81 yards for a touchdown. The extra point was no good, but the Rams had pulled to within 35-21.
East Bladen answered with a 60-yard, eight-play march that featured a 24-yard run by Chancy, two fumbles by the Eagles, a fourth-down conversion and a 10-yard pass from Bedsole to Berkeley before Wooten scored on a 2-yard run with 3:30 left in the half. Melvin’s kick gave East Bladen a 42-21 lead.
Greene Central took possession at its own 44 and moved to the Eagles’ 46 before Adonis Avery intercepted a Rams pass at the East Bladen 19. From there, the Eagles marched to the visitors’ 26 before a penalty, no gain on a run, incomplete pass and the clock stopped the drive as halftime arrived.
The second half couldn’t have started worse for the Rams, who fumbled the opening kickoff and watched as Avery fell on the ball for East Bladen at the Greene Central 30.
A pass from Bedsole to Wooten gained 7 yards, a run by Xavia McDowell gained 6 yards and Wooten finished things off with a 17-yard touchdown run. Melvin’s kick gave the Eagles a 49-21 lead just 1:21 into the third quarter.
If that wasn’t the straw that broke the Rams’ back, then it soon came. After stopping Greene Central on three plays and watching a 12-yard punt go out of bounds at the Rams’ 39, East Bladen got 15 yards from Wooten, 2 from Chancy, 11 more from Wooten and an 11-yard touchdown run from McDowell. Melvin’s kick was blocked, but the Eagles went up 55-21 with 7:26 left in the third quarter.
The Rams hadn’t quite begun to hang their heads, and put together a 68-yard drive on six plays that found the end zone on a 53-yard pass. The kick moved Greene Central to within 55-28.
East Bladen wasn’t done. Starting from its own 42 after a squib kick, the Eagles covered the 58 yards in just four running plays that included a 29-yard run by Chancy and finished with a 7-yard touchdown run by Wooten. The extra point was good by Melvin and gave East Bladen a 62-28 lead with 2:17 left in the third quarter.
Greene Central finished off the quarter but when nowhere before a 28-yard punt gave the Eagles possession at their own 30 early in the fourth quarter. East Bladen went on one of its patented, methodical drives that went the 70 yards in nine plays. Wooten scored on a 17-yard run, but a penalty called it back and he scored again moments later on a 9-yard run. The point after was botched, but East Bladen had built a 68-28 lead with 6:31 left in the game.
The Rams went three and out, punting the ball back to the Eagles at the Greene Central 47. East Bladen’s No. 2 offense, behind James Higgins’ 12 yards and an 11-yard run by Devonta McIver, moved to the Rams’ 20 before a knee finished the game.
“I like the energy tonight; we played inspired football and the sidelines was really into it,” Priest said. “It’s what I’ve been waiting for.
“We got some breaks with a few fumbles,” he added, “but overall we executed well.”
In addition to Wooten’s big game, Chancy had 175 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries for the Eagles. Through the air, Bedsole was 4-of-7 for 83 yards and two touchdowns. Smith caught two balls for 51 yards and Berkeley caught two for 25 yards.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-862-4163 or firstname.lastname@example.org.