FAIRMONT — East Bladen remains one of two unbeatens in the Three Rivers Conference football race.
Barely. By a wide right field goal on the road in the waning minutes.
The Eagles outlasted host Fairmont 28-27 on Friday night, building a 28-7 lead in the third quarter and then hanging on through a pulsating final 17 minutes.
“If you paid to get in the game, you got your money’s worth,” Eagles’ seventh-year head coach Robby Priest said. “Coaching and watching the ball fall on the ground, that ain’t fun.”
Four lost fumbles aided the Golden Tornadoes’ upset bid. Resilience on defense fueled the Eagles.
Fairmont (1-4, 1-2 Three Rivers) had a pair of fourth-quarter scores and a two-point conversion to move within 28-27 with 6:13 to play. An East Bladen lost fumble gave the hosts their final opportunity, and they reached a first down inside the Eagles’ 10-yard-line.
A false start penalty was pivotal, and on fourth down Fairmont attempted a field of about 26 yards that sailed to the right with just over two minutes to play.
East Bladen (4-1, 3-0 Three Rivers) managed a first down, then kneeled to exhaust the clock.
“They’ve got athletes,” Priest said. “The kid that is going to Duke, he put on a show at quarterback.”
Jordan Waters had scoring runs of 10 and 80 yards, and touchdown passes of 8 yards to Savonte McKeithan and 69 yards to Jayvon Morris, the latter with 6:13 to play. Waters threw to Jahkeem Moore for the conversion.
“It was a definite learning experience for our players,” Priest said.
Sophomore Zach Meares completed three passes for 111 yards, the big one for 75 yards and a touchdown to junior Tayshaun Berkeley. Sophomore ReSean McKoy ran for 118 yards, junior Lawson Hester 100 and senior Eric Chancy 78.
Hester’s 17-yard scoring run gave East Bladen a 7-0 lead with the first of junior Gabe Barber’s four extra points. Meares’ TD pass and 1-yard run boosted the halftime lead to 21-7. McKoy’s 44-yard scoring jaunt made it 28-7 with 8:30 to play in the third quarter.
Priest said the defense of senior Dayveon Washington, senior Jordan Payton, junior Jordan Stanley, senior Tyvon Townsend, Shy Pone and Chancy was pivotal.
“We didn’t play that bad, but offensively, you can’t put the ball on the ground,” Priest said. “Give Fairmont some credit, we went for it on fourth down and they stopped us two or three downs.”