LELAND — Time and again, the head coach said, defense bailed out the offense.
But the “O” did have a big one.
Junior Lawson Hester broke away for a tie-breaking 76-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter, lifting East Bladen over North Brunswick 21-16 in high school football Friday night. The Eagles (1-1) of seventh-year head coach Robby Priest were in their final non-conference tuneup before Whiteville visits Friday to open Three Rivers Conference play.
Hester also ran for scores of 2 and 6 yards, finishing with 123 yards on 14 carries. East Bladen’s 329 total yards came a week after failing to crack 200 against Clinton.
Priest said his linemen and backs, troubled to sustain momentum and complete assignments last week, were much better. And Hester, he said, “broke a long one.”
“He outran them,” Priest said. “They’ve got athletes, and they always win in track at the state championships. That was a bright spot tonight.”
Each team had a turnover. Priest, who doesn’t like to punt and only had his team do so twice, was especially complimentary of his entire defense when in challenging field position.
Middle linebackers Dayveon Washington, a senior, and junior Kasey Price led the way. Juniors Jordan Stanley and Zach Hester were a force up front, Lawson Hester and senior Eric Chancy held the outside edges, and the secondary of senior corners Shy Pone and Josh McKoy and sophomore safety Rasean McKoy were resilient.
“Hester, we knew he could run the ball,” Priest said. “We’ve got a lot of dudes going both ways. We have to figure out a rotation, give everybody a breather until it gets cooler.”
One change in the line shifted Stanley, a tackle to guard, and senior Tyreese McElveen, a guard to tackle.
The 3-A Scorpions of the Mideastern Conference remained winless with their second loss to a Three Rivers foe. Whiteville popped North Brunswick 41-7 in the season opener for each team.
Damont Perry led the hosts with 120 yards on 16 carries, including a 37-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.