By John Clark
ELIZABETHTOWN – East Bladen’s Eagles were 1-3 after their tough non-conference schedule, and Coach Robby Priest said he heard the negative talk from the sidelines during losses to North Brunswick and James Kenan. “Those teams are Class 3A and 2A playoff teams,” said Priest. “And we needed to play teams like that to get better.”
Friday night the Eagles proved they were ready for Waccamaw Conference play as they rushed for 498 yards and pulled away in the 2nd half en route to a 40-15 victory over South Columbus in their league opener.
Senior Masion Brooks spearheaded the Eagle attack carrying 15 times for 237 yards and 3 touchdowns. Senior Na’Toren Corbett rushed 12 times for 152 yards and a touchdown. “We did a little better than 88 yards tonight,” chuckled Priest referring to last week’s performance against James Kenan.
“Na’Toren ran the ball hard tonight,” continued Priest. “He takes pride in his blocking. That kind of attitude will get you on the field.”
Junior quarterback Kewone Maynor raced 75 yards for a touchdown and completed 2 of 4 passes for 51 yards and another touchdown. With the passing yardage the Eagles racked up 549 total yards in the game.
The Stallions covered 68 yards on their opening drive, and a 13-yard run by senior Demonta Gore moved South to the Eagle 4 yard line. Eagle seniors Jamarius Smith and Jadon Pridgen threw Stallion runners for consecutive 2-yard losses, and a 4th down pass was ruled incomplete because the receiver was out of bounds.
East Bladen responded with a 92-yard drive in 7 plays. Brooks carried 4 times for 11 yards, before Maynor circled right end and raced 76 yards to the end zone to put East up 6-0 at the 3:41 mark.
After Gore returned the kickoff 40 yards to midfield, the Stallions drove 50 yards in 12 plays. Quarterback Daquan Cox connected with Javon McLaughlin for 22 yards, tossed a 16-yard pass to Gore then hit sophomore Briar Johnson with a 6-yard touchdown pass. Brian Gonzalez kicked the conversion for a 7-6 South lead 10:54 before halftime.
Corbett banged into the line for gains of 9, 4 and 8 yards. Brooks barreled 16 yards on a counter play before Maynor fired a quick swing pass to junior Malaki Moore who flew 35 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown that padded the East lead to 12-7 with 7:37 on the clock.
After a Stallion punt pushed the Eagles back to their own 7 yard line, East Bladen drove 91 yards. Corbett’s 8-yard run plus a facemask penalty started the march, and Maynor hurled a 16-yard pass to Moore. On the last play of the half, Brooks shucked off several tacklers, ran through some others and cut back across the field before being dropped at the 2 yard line after a 44-yard gain.
The Eagles opened the 2nd half with a 62-yard drive in 7 plays. Corbett picked up 20 yards on 3 carries, and Brooks ripped off runs of 6 and 20 yards before bolting 22 yards around left end for a touchdown at the 8:39 mark to stretch the lead to 18-7.
Two plays after stopping South on downs at the East 26 yard line, Corbett raced around the right side, powered through a tackle and sped 75 yards to the end zone. Brooks plowed into the end zone for the conversion that grew the Eagle lead to 26-7 44 seconds before the quarter break.
Senior Darius Williamson, who had a 1st half fumble recovery, intercepted a Cox pass and returned the ball 18 yards to the East 24 yard line. Brooks broke loose around the left side on the next play and galloped 76 yards for another touchdown. Moore hauled in a Maynor pass for the 2-point conversion and a 34-7 lead with 8:59 left to play.
After a short kickoff the Stallions moved 39 yards in 5 plays. Sophomore A. J. Scott hauled in a 22-yard pass from Cox, and junior Rush Blackwell scored on a 4-yard TD run. Cox threw to Scott again for the 2-point conversion that trimmed the margin to 34-15.
East Bladen sophomore Keyshawn Kemp recovered a Stallion onside kick at midfield. Corbett rushed 2 times for 17 yards, before Brooks powered into the line for gains of 7 and 23 yards. Brooks scored again on a 3-yard run that upped the count to 40-15.
Cox completed 11 of 26 passes for 94 yards and a touchdown and rushed 9 times for 46 yards. Blackwell had 10 carries for 48 yards and a touchdown. The Stallions were limited to 148 yards rushing and 242 total yards.
“I liked the way the defense played,” said Priest. “Flying around to the ball and making adjustments on the fly.”
The Eagles, now 2-3 overall, will celebrate Homecoming Friday when they host East Columbus. The Stallions, now 2-2, will entertain Pender Friday night.