Despite short prep time, East Bladen set for Wallace-Rose Hill

By: W. Curt Vincent -

ELIZABETHTOWN — With a huge conference game staring them in the face and a mere three days to prepare, East Bladen coach Robby Priest thinks Friday’s clash with Four County Conference power Wallace-Rose Hill could come down to one thing.

“In games like this, whoever’s team makes the big-time plays will probably win,” he said about the game being played in Teachey.

Although the Bulldogs — 7-0 overall, 3-0 in the conference and ranked No. 1 in the state’s Class 1-A poll by The Associated Press — will offer up plenty of challenges, Mother Nature has dealt its own challenge in the form of flooding on the heels of Hurricane Matthew on Oct. 8, which wiped out last week’s game along with several days of practice. East Bladen held its first practice since Oct. 6 on Tuesday.

“I wish we had more time to prepare for this,” Priest said. “But here we go anyway.”

The Eagles, 4-3 overall and 2-1 in the conference, will have their claws full with a Wing-T offense that has scored 259 points and features a quarterback who can run and throw, along with a few running backs who have piled up the yards.

“Their quarterback is a good athlete,” Priest said. “He can throw it, but he can also hand off to good running backs.”

Quarterback Aliza Carter has completed 24 of 52 passes for 537 yards and eight touchdowns this season. He’s also carried the ball 51 times for 337 yards and five touchdown.

When Carter hands off, it’s to the likes of Desmond Newkirk, who has carried the ball 70 times for 446 yards and seven touchdowns, or Malcolm Gray, who has toted the ball 52 times for 304 yards and two touchdowns.

On defense, Wallace-Rose Hill operates out of a basic 50 set that features linebacker Javonte Williams, who has accumulated 95 tackles, 59 solo, already this season — along with two interceptions; as well as defensive end Xavier Murray, who has 70 tackles that includes 50 solo and 3.5 sacks. The Bulldogs have given up a conference-best 32 points in seven games.

“Really good defense,” Priest said. “They have a bunch of athletes.”

Priest said this week “feels like we’re starting over to some degree” and that “we’ll be worried about player safety” because of it — but he added that the Eagles will try to simplify things as much as possible.

“We’ll need to win the time of possession and keep their defense on the field,” he said. “Along with avoiding turnovers, penalties and executing well.”

Kickoff on Friday is set for 7 p.m.

W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.

W. Curt Vincent