Both Bladen County high school football teams will begin their seasons at home Friday night as East Bladen’s Eagles host perennial power Wallace-Rose Hill, and West Bladen entertain South Brunswick.
Coach Robby Priest’s Eagles finished in second-place in the Three Rivers Conference in 2018 with an 8-1 record and posted a 9-3 overall mark.
Departed from that team via graduation are All-Conference players Eric Chancy (1,059 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns), Shy Pone (440 receiving yards, 7 touchdowns), Tyvon Townsend, Dayveon Washington and Jordan Payton.
Heading the list of returnees for East Bladen are senior Lawson Hester (759 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns in 2018), senior Kasey Price (346 rushing yards, 102 tackles) and junior Rasean McKoy (72 tackles).
Senior Tayshaun Berkeley, one of the team’s leading receivers a year ago, has moved into the quarterback slot and will be protected by a veteran offensive line that features All-Conference senior Jordan Stanley, senior Rashard Willis, juniors Nick Norris and Josh Hayes and sophomore Donnie Ezzell.
Seniors Zac Hester, Zaquis Leach, Hayes, Price, and Lawson Hester lead the Eagle defense along with McKoy and sophomore Raymond Autry.
The Eagles have a brutal opening schedule. After opening with the Bulldogs, who have won six state championships in the last nine seasons, the Eagles travel to Clinton (8-3 in 2018), then open conference play at Whiteville before hosting TRC defending champion South Columbus.
Coach Jon Sherman takes over the coaching reins at West Bladen and inherits a program that was 1-10 last year.
Departed via graduation are Kerron Washington and Nelson Drake, but both of the Knights 2018 All-Conference players, senior quarterback Tyre Boykin and junior receiver Shy’ron Adams, return.
Boykin completed 83 of 156 passes for 1,057 yards and 13 touchdowns and ran for 771 yards and 9 touchdowns. Adams caught 30 passes for 488 yards and 9 touchdowns, ran for another touchdown and scored a kickoff return touchdown.
Also returning for the Knights are senior Trashawn Ballard (316 yards rushing, 4 touchdowns), senior linemen Nelson Landreth and Lucas Nance, junior linemen Kai Belle, Xzavion Morrison and Ethan Davis.
Other returnees are junior end Andrew Pait, senior Andrew Brown, junior back Kendall Johnson and sophomore back Demarius Robinson.
Defensive leaders include Johnson, Brown and Morrison. Other key players are Isaiah McNeill and freshman Gary Parker.
The Knights open with nonconference games against South Brunswick, North Brunswick and Red Springs. Conference play begins at home against Fairmont on September 13.