CLINTON — For the second straight week, East Bladen had the the thrill of victory pulled out from under them with about a minute to play, losing to Clinton on Friday in a Four County Conference matchup, 21-20.
The loss drops the Eagles to 1-5 overall and 0-2 in the conference. Clinton moved to 3-2 overall and 2-0 after getting its first win in five years against the Eagles.
East Bladen opened the game like gangbusters, starting from its own 20. An incomplete pass and 6-yard loss set up a third and 16, but quarterback Ty McMillian calmly dropped back and hit Jaquan Jones with a pass — and Jones hauled the ball the rest of the way for an 86-yard touchdown at 10:57.
Dwight Campbell’s kick was no good, but the Eagles led, 6-0.
The Dark Horses were stopped on a three and out, and East Bladen took over after a 30-yard punt at its own 35.
From there, the Eagles went on a 12-play, 65-yard march that saw East Bladen used a balanced attack of runs and passes. The big plays included a 27-yard run by Farrell Murchison and 18-yard pass on fourth down from McMillian to Alex Stephens before Jaylan Herring took the ball in for a 2-yard touchdown run. A pass from McMillian to Jones earned East Bladen the two-point conversion and game the Eagles a 14-0 lead with 3:04 left in the first quarter.
The momentum stayed with east Bladen, as Clinton ran four plays to move to the Eagles’ 11, then fumbled the ball. Murchison pounced on the loose football at the East Bladen 17 to fizzle the Dark Horses’ drive.
East Bladen could have put a big daggar in the Clinton hearts, but instead went three and out — and a short punt allowed the Dark Horses to take control at the East Bladen 37.
But after six plays moved the ball to the Eagles’ 17, Stephens sacked the Clinton quarterback on fourth down to stop the threat early in the second quarter.
East Bladen got a 17-yard and 12-yard run by Murchison during a 12-play drive that carried the Eagles to the Clinton 24 before the Dark Horses stiffened and stopped the drive on downs.
Clinton wasted little time, moving 76 yards in just six plays and finding pay dirt with 1:29 left in the half. The kick was good and East Bladen’s lead had been cut in half at 14-7.
The Eagles, starting at their own 46 after a big kickoff return by Jones, moved the ball quickly to the Clinton 3 — thanks in part to a pass interference call against the Dark Horses. But with 4.8 second left in the half, McMillian’s pass went awry and fell incomplete.
The two teams traded possessions to open the second half, but on Clinton’s second possession, they managed to take a short punt and set up shop at the East Bladen 23. It took the dark Horses just three plays to chew up those yards, scoring at the 5:23 mark of the third quarter. The extra point knotted the score at 14-14.
East Bladen could do nothing on its next possession, and Clinton got the ball back at its own 33. Six runs took the ball to the Eagles’ 20 but, on the seventh play, the Dark Horses fumbled and the ball was picked up by East Bladen’s Isaiah Young at the 15 and raced 85 yards for a touchdown. The kick failed, but the Eagles had regained the lead, 20-14, with 34 seconds left in the quarter.
Clinton took the ball into the fourth quarter before punting and East Bladen began a march at its own 40 — moving to the Clinton 11 behind a 9-yard run by Murchison, a 10-yard run by Herring and a 6-yard run on fourth down by Murchison to keep the drive going. But on fourth and 1, the drive stalled.
The Dark Horses took over and drove 89 yards in 10 plays, finding the end zone with 1:02 left in the game and taking their first and only lead after the PAT, 21-20.
East Bladen put of four passes, but all fell incomplete to all but end the game.
“We just got wore down,” East Bladen coach Robby Priest said. “As a team, I thought our defense played good and the offense did, too. We just got wore down.
“Tough loss — after last week and then this week, it’ll give you gray hairs,” he added.
Murchison led East Bladen’s ground game with 114 yards on 14 carries, while Herring had 47 yards on 21 carries.
Through the air, after going 6-for-12 for 136 yards in the first half, McMillian was 0-for-4 in the second half to finish 6-for-16. Jones led Eagles receivers with two catches for 102 yards, while Stephens had two catches for 27 yards.