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East Bladen’s Eagles matched touchdowns with Southwest Edgecombe in the opening quarter, but the Cougars kept the pressure on and scored 34 unanswered points to advance to the third-round of the NCHSAA Class 2A play-offs with a 41-21 victory.

Star senior Marcus Williams, Jr. rushed for 247 yards and 4 touchdowns to boost his season totals to 2,018 yards and 34 touchdowns and lead the Cougars to victory. Southwest scored on their first seven possessions of the game.

However, the Eagles threw the first punch in the scoring slugfest as junior Ethan Hines fielded the opening kick-off and scooted through the Cougar defenders for an 84-yard touchdown return. Senior Jesus Ramos booted the extra point and East led 7-0 with 11:43 on the first quarter clock.

Two plays later the score was tied as Williams, Jr. bolted 55 yards for a Southwest TD, and Jarrett Mobley added the conversion.

Back came the Eagles as sophmore fullback Xavia McDowell rambled 26 yards to begin a 58-yard, 8-play drive. A pass interference penalty moved the ball to the Southwest 8 yardline, and McDowell barreled through the line for 6 more yards. One play later from the one,  McDowell bulled his way into the end zone. Ramos tacked on the conversion for a 14-7 East lead with 7:04 left in the quarter.

The Cougars answered with an 89-yard drive in just 4 plays. Keanan Williams capped the drive with a 7-yard TD run, but the conversion kick missed and the Eagles still led 14-13 with 5:21 remaining in the period.

The Eagles tried to answer with a 67-yard, 12-play drive that reached the Southwest 21 yardline. However quarterback Ty McMillian’s fourth-down pass was intercepted in the end zone.

A penalty moved the Cougars out to their own 35 yardline where they embarked on a 9-play, 65-yard scoring drive. M. Williams, Jr. bolted 15 yards up the middle for the touchdown, then ran the 2-point conversion for a 21-14 Southwest lead6:58 before halftime.

After an Eagle punt, another 9-play, 59-yard drive stretched the Cougar lead to 28-14 just 10 seconds before intermission. Quarterback Tucker Pridgen connected with Quontellas Norwood on an 11-yard pass for the touchdown, and Mobley kicked the conversion.

Southwest took the second-half kick-off and covered 60 yards in 7 plays to push the margin to 35-14 with 9:04 left in the quarter. M. Williams, Jr. carried 5 yards for the touchdown, and Mobley added the extra point.

Another interception gave the Cougars the ball at their own 48. The Eagle defense forced a fourth down and two play, but Southwest faked a punt and picked up the first down. Five plays later, M. Williams, Jr. dashed 11 yards for the touchdown. East Bladen’s Derrick Burney blocked the extra point, but the Southwest lead was 41-14 with 3:07 left in the third quarter.

After an Eagle punt, the East Bladen defense held and the first Southwest punt of the night gave the ball back to East at their own 30 yardline. Senior Nikita Owens broke free for 11 yards, and junior Kyle Tatum charged through the line for 14 more. Ethan Hines took the ball to the Cougar 36 with a 9-yard run.

Tatum rammed through the line from a yard out for the touchdown that ended the 70-yard drive, and Ramos converted the extra point to pull East to within 41-21 with 6:23 left to play.

The high-octane Cougar offense finished with 379 rushing yards and 414 total yards. The Eagles totaled 203 yards rushing and 228 total.

McDowell led the Eagles with 76 yards and a touchdown on 12 rushes. Tatum added 45 yards and a touchdown on 11 attempts. Ethan Hines carried 8 times for 34 yards, and Owens totaled 33 yards rushing on 7 carries.

Coach Robby Priest’s Eagles finish their season with a 10-3 record. Southwest Edgecombe (12-1) advances to host Fairmont next Friday.

Scoring Summary:
East Bladen                     14       0       0      7 – 21
Southwest Edgecombe     13      15      13      0  – 41
EB – Ethan Hines 84 kick-off return (Jesus Ramos kick)
SWE – Marcus Williams, Jr. 55 run (Jarratt Mobley kick)
EB – Xavia McDowell 1 run (Ramos kick)
SWE – Keanan Williams 7 run (kick failed)
SWE – M. Williams, Jr. 15 run (M. Williams, Jr. run)
SWE – Quontellas Norwood 11 pass from Tucker Pridgen (Mobley kick)
SWE – M. Williams, Jr. 5 run (Mobley kick)
SWE – M. Williams, Jr. 11 run (kick blocked)
EB – Kyle Tatum 1 run (Ramos kick)

Rushing: EB – McDowell 12-76, Tatum 11-45, Ethan Hines 8-34, Nikita Owens 7-33, Eian Hines 4-(-10); SWE – M. Williams, Jr. 22-247, Trevon Pittman 11-44, Keanan Williams 7-41, Norwood 1-12, Keyshon Edwards 1-1, Pridgen 1-(-1).

Passing: EB – Ty McMillian 3-9-2, 25; SWE – Pridgen 3-5-0, 35.
Receiving: EB – Zachary Johnson 1-14, Eian Hines 1-8, Sincere Smith 1-3; SWE – Norwood 3-35.

Records: East Bladen 10-3, Southwest Edgecombe 12-1.

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