ELIZABETHTOWN — East Bladen won the first half of Friday’s skirmish with East Columbus in big fashion, but more importantly, the Eagles won the second half for the first time this season and came away with a 50-18 non-conference victory.
East Bladen, now 1-3 with the Four County Conference schedule opening on Friday, got a huge game on both sides of the ball from a variety of players — including Jaylon Herring, Alex Stephens, Ty McMillian and Jaquan Jones, among others.
East Bladen kicked off to start the game, and the Gators gave the ball right back with a fumble on their first play, recovered by the Eagles’ Darrious Ballard at the East Columbus 40.
After a fumble on their first play that didn’t hurt any, East Bladen marched 60 yards to the end zone — highlighted by a 17-yard run and 7-yard touchdown run by Herring at the 9:35 mark. the two-point try failed and the Eagles led, 6-0.
The Gators went three and out, punting the ball to the East Bladen 42, where the Eagles lost 5 yards on their first play and then watched as Farrell Murchison busted a run for 63 yards to pay dirt. But the play was called back on a penalty, putting the ball on the East Bladen 37. The Eagles then went three and out.
After holding East Columbus again, the Eagles offense took over at its own 31 and proceeded to march 69 yards on 12 plays — getting good chunks of yardage from Herring, Demond Gamble and Murchison. But with the ball on the East Columbus 15 and facing a fourth down, McMillian dropped back and found Murchison open for a 15-yard touchdown strike. McMillian then hit a wide open Stephens for the two-point conversoin and East Bladen led, 14-0, early in the second quarter.
The Eagles got the ball back quickly. After Stephens sacked the Gators’ quarterback for a 9-yard loss, McMillian made a diving intercepted of a Gators pass and East Bladen took over at its own 38.
A McMillian to Stephens pass gained 17 and a Murchison run gained another 10. Herrings added in runs of 7, 11 and 7 yards before he scored on a 2-yard run that saw him crash over three tacklers. Gamble ran in the two-point try and East Bladen had pushed the lead to 22-0 with 6:37 left in the half.
After holding East Columbus to three and out, East Bladen took over at its own 35 and used just five plays to find the end zone. Murchison started with a 10-yard run, Herring followed with a 17-yard run and Jones made a stellar play when he picked up a bad pitch and turned a 5-yard loss into a 7-yard gain. McMillian followed that with a 38-yard touchdown pass to Jones. Dwight Campbell kicked the point after for a 28-0 Eagles lead with 2:30 left in the half.
East Columbus used up a minute with three plays that netted 46 yards and took the ball to the East Bladen 20, then hoisted up a bring-the-rain pass that fell into the hands of a Gator for a touchdown at the 1:14 mark. The conversion failed and East Bladen held a 28-6 edge.
The Eagles didn’t need much time to score again, thank to Jones’ 32-yard kickoff return to the Eagles’ 47. Murchison bulled his way for 10 yards, Herring hit a hole hard for 14 yards and McMillian found Murchison with a 26-yard pass that took East Bladen to the Gators’ 3. Herring then busted in for a score and Campbell added the PAT for a 35-6 lead.
Stephens sacked the East Columbus quarterback to end the first half.
In that half, the Gators gained a total of 58 yards, while East Bladen picked up 288 yards.
“It was a pretty good first half, but I know there’s a second half coming,” said East Bladen coach Robbie Priest. “It’s been a long time coming, so I’m not calling anything off. I’m glad we get the ball to start the second half.”
The second half didn’t start the way Priest was hoping, with a three and out by the Eagles, but Campbell boomed a 47-yard punt and pinned East Columbus back on its own 21. And on the gators first play, Gamble picked off a pass to give East Bladen the ball at the Gators 17.
On their second play, East Bladen saw a big gain result in a fumble and East Columbus recovered at its own 3. But on the first play, Larrell Murchison broke through the line and caught the Gators ball carrier in the end zone for a safety and a 37-6 Eagles lead.
On the ensuing East Columbus punt from its own 20, Jones hauled in the kick at the East Bladen 38 and wove upfield for 56 yards before the Gators finally brought him down at the 6. A penalty moved East Bladen back to the 11, but Herring got 8 yards back with a run and Gamble went the final 3 yards for the score. Campbell booted the extra point and East Bladen’s lead was at 44-6.
East Columbus ran two plays before Jones picked off another pass and returned it 20 yards to midfield. East Bladen drove to the East Columbus 22, where the drive fizzled.
East Columbus moved to the Eagles’ 47 to end the third quarter, then got a 47-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the fourth quarter. The conversion failed, but the Gators closed the gap slightly at 44-12.
As the rain started to come down lightly, East Bladen opened a 59-yard drive that took just four plays — highlighted by a 17-yard run by Nick Banks, 16-yard run by Herring and 24-yard touchdown run by Nikita Owens that saw him drag three Gators the final 15 yards. The Eagles took a knee on the PAT and led 50-12 with 8:07 left to play.
East Columbus put together a quick 73-yard scoring march in just three plays, the big one a 63-yard touchdown pass tat saw the Gators’ receiver break several tackles at the line of scrimmage and race the rest of the way. The conversion failed and kept the score at 50-18 with 5:22 to go.
East Bladen then ran out the clock with two first downs and then three knees.
“Jaquan (Jones) had a good game — he gives us that athlete quality that we’ve been missing, which really helps us,” Priest said. “And the offensive line really did well — and we hung on to the ball tonight and still fought hard for every yard. We needed this win, but starting 0-3 didn’t show how hard these guys worked and how much they improved.”
Herring led East Bladen on the ground with 132 yards on 16 carries, while Murchison had 77 yards on 10 carries and Gamble gained 56 yards on 11 carries.
Through the air, McMillian was 4-for-8 for 96 yards. Murchison had two catches for 41 yards, Jones had one catch for 38 yards and Stephens had a catch for 17 yards.