ST PAULS – Senior Xavier Wooten ran for 232 yards and 2 touchdowns as East Bladen rallied in the closing minutes for a 34-28 Three Rivers Conference football victory over St. Pauls Friday night.
It was the second week in a row that a late Eagle rally proved to be the difference. A week ago Shy Pone’s kick-off return in the final minute gave the Eagles a 42-38 win over Fairmont.
Quarterback Noah Wheeler’s 3-yard run fifteen seconds into the final quarter gave the Bulldogs a 28-21 lead. Back came the Eagles with a touchdown march that Wooten capped with a 12-yard touchdown run. Junior Pierce Melvin kicked the tying extra point with 7:22 remaining.
The Bulldogs mounted another drive, but the Eagle defense stiffened and stopped St. Pauls on downs at the East Bladen ten with five minutes left.
The Eagle offense responded with a clock-consuming drive that produced the winning touchdown when quarterback Sincere Smith kept the ball on the bootleg around right end for the touchdown and a 34-28 lead with 15 seconds on the clock.
The Bulldogs didn’t quit and threw a ‘hook-and-ladder’ play out to midfield but East Bladen’s Smith busted up the pitch then recovered the ball to clinch the victory.
Wooten was the Eagle workhorse piling up his 232 yards on 28 carries. “He ran well and the line did a great job,” said East Bladen Coach Robby Priest.
Junior Eric Chancy ran the ball 12 times for 58 yards and 2 touchdowns. Smith finished with 46 yards rushing and a touchdown on 9 attempts.
The Eagles held a narrow 365-349 edge in total yards. All of the East yards were on the ground. St. Pauls’ Wheeler ran for 101 yards and 3 touchdowns and threw for 143 yards completing 10 of 14 passes. Teammate Caleb Inman rushed for 67 yards and a touchdown.
“I told Coach (Ernest) King after the game that we couldn’t simulate in practice what they do,” said Coach Priest. “They are tough to prepare for. He said it goes both ways that they couldn’t simulate what we do.”
A one-yard touchdown run by Wheeler plus Gary Locklear’s extra point kick put the Bulldogs up 7-0 with 9:20 left in the first quarter.
The Eagles answered with a scoring drive that ended with a one-yard Chancy touchdown carry followed by a Melvin conversion kick that tied the game 7-7 with 2:52 left in the period.
Wooten banged into the end zone from a yard out 9:26 before halftime, and Melvin tacked on the point for a 14-7 East lead.
Wheeler popped loose on a 22-yard touchdown run midway the quarter, and Locklear converted to tie the game 14-14 at halftime.
The Eagles struck quickly 38 seconds into the third period as Chancy bolted 8 yards for the touchdown. Melvin added the point for a 21-14 lead.
Inman’s 21-yard touchdown run plus another Locklear kick tied the game 21-21 with 7:10 left in the third period.
The Eagles improved to 5-1 in league play and 7-1 overall with the win. East Bladen will host East Columbus Friday night.