ELIZABETHTOWN — Ethan Hines rushed for 294 yards and five touchdowns, Xavier Wooten rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown, and James Higgins intercepted a pass and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown on the last play of the game — all of which led No. 3 seed East Bladen past No. 6 seed Farmville Central on Friday in the opening round of the state’s Class 2-A playoffs, 62-42.
The win improves the Eagles to 8-4 and earns them a date with No. 2 seed Ayden-Grifton, 9-3, in the second round on the day after Thanksgiving.
After holding the Jaguars to a three and out to start the game, East Bladen took over at its own 42 and needed just three plays to cover the 58 yards when Wooten took the handoff and raced 52 yards for a touchdown. Pierce Melvin kicked the PAT for a 7-0 lead just 2:46 into the game.
Farmville Central answered with eight-play, hurry-up offensive drive that covered 69 yards and finished with a 2-yard scoring run. The extra point knotted the game at 7-7 with 6:06 left in the first quarter.
Back came the Eagles. Starting at its own 39, East Bladen marched the 61 yards in eight plays — highlighted by a 35-yard pass from quarterback Quinton Bedsole to Eian Hines and culminated with a 2-yard touchdown run by Ethan Hines with 2:18 left in the period. Melvin added the point after for a 14-7 edge.
The Jaguars again went three and out, and East Bladen took possession at its own 33. Four plays gained 12 yards and, on the fifth play, Ethan Hines outraced the Farmville Central defense for a 55-yard touchdown run. Melvin booted the extra point to give the Eagles a 21-7 lead 1:30 into the second quarter.
The visitors didn’t wilt, getting 40 yards on the first play and finishing off the 80-yard march for a touchdown with 7:30 left in the half. The PAT cut the Jaguars’ deficit to 21-14.
East Bladen got stopped on its next possession, turning the ball over on downs at its own 46. Farmville Central, after two straight penalties pushed the ball into Jaguars territory, needed just three plays to find the end zone — the scoring play coming on a trick pass play that went for 43 yards. The kick was good and the game was knotted up again, 21-21, with 3:23 left in the half.
The Eagles, starting at their own 35, got another big pass play from Bedsole to Eian Hines that went for 29 yards and a huge 11-yard run by Wooten before Ethan Hines scored on a 4-yard run. Melvin kicked the point after for a 28-21 East Bladen lead with 36 seconds left before halftime.
Farmville Central managed to move 26 yards before halftime arrived.
“It went about like I thought it would,” East Bladen coach Robby Priest said of the first half. But about the trick play, he said, “good teams don’t let trick plays happen.”
The Eagles opened the second half with the ball at their own 37 and, on the first play, Ethan Hines ripped off a 63-yard touchdown run on a counter play. Melvin booted the PAT and East Bladen opened a 35-21 lead just 15 seconds into the third quarter.
The Jaguars responded with a nine-play, 55-yard touchdown drive and, when the point after went through, pulled to within 35-28 with 8:15 left in the quarter.
East Bladen survived a near-interception on its next possession, instead driving from its own 44 and covering the 56 yards in 10 plays — finishing up with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Bedsole to Ethan Hines with 2:41 left in the third period. The PAT was no good, but the Eagles were up, 41-28.
The visitors kept coming, using a five-play drive to move 65 yards and score with 19 seconds left in the stanza. The point after pulled the Jaguars to within 41-35.
The Eagles all but owned the fourth quarter, using their first possession to march 57 yards on nine plays that featured runs of 23 and 18 yards by Ethan Hines before he scored on a 1-yard run with 8 minutes left to play. Ethan Hines also added the two-point conversion run to give East Bladen a 49-35 edge.
Farmville Central moved from its own 45 to the Eagles’ 18 before Xavia McDowell fell on a Jaguars fumble at the East Bladen 17. From there, fueled by a Farmville Central personal foul, the Eagles went on a nine-play, 83-yard touchdown march that found pay dirt when Bedsole hit a wide open Eian Hines with a 38-yard pass. Melvin kicked the extra point for a 56-35 East Bladen lead with 2:58 to play.
The Jaguars answered quickly, eating up 64 yards on just four plays and cut the Eagles’ lead to 56-42 with 1:50 left.
East Bladen couldn’t move far, but used up all but 10 seconds — and on the final play of the game, Farmville Central lofted a pass that Higgins picked off and raced 45 yards for a touchdown with all zeroes on the clock.
“I knew they’d give us a good shot,” Priest said.”They have some athletes.
“But I am happy with our line play and Quinton played a really good game,” he added. “We threw when we wanted to, not when we had to.”
With his 294 yards rushing, Ethan Hines now has 1,668 for the season, and his five touchdowns Friday gives him 19 this season. Through the air, Bedsole was 4-of-7 for 114 yards and two touchdowns — Eian Hines had three catches for 102 yards and a touchdown, while Ethan Hines had the other catch for 12 yards and a touchdown.
Fridays game in Ayden against the Chargers will have a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.