ELIZABETHTOWN — Before Friday night’s Four County Conference kickoff between East Bladen and Wallace-Rose Hill, there was a definite David vs. Goliath perception.
And just like the biblical David, the Eagles took down the conference’s Goliath — featuring four touchdowns by Farrell Murchison — handing the Bulldogs their first conference loss, 36-28.
East Bladen’s defense opened the game by bending, but not breaking, and stopped Wallace-Rose Hill on downs at the Eagles’ 35. From there, the offense methodically moved 65 yards in 14 plays — highlighted by a 16-yard pass from Ty McMillian to Jaquan Jones and solid runs by Murchison and Jaylan Herring — before Murchison punched the ball in for a 3-yard touchdown with 1:03 left in the first quarter. The point after was no good, but East Bladen led, 6-0.
The seemed to get the Bulldogs’ attention, and they took their next possession 54 yards to the end zone in just four plays. The kick was good and Wallace-Rose Hill took a 7-6 edge just inside the second quarter.
East Bladen went three and out and a 32-yard punt set the visitors up at their own 35. four runs and a 45-yard pass moved the ball to the Eagles’ 19 and the next handoff resulted in a touchdown with 8:27 left in the half. The Bulldogs added the extra point and took a 14-6 lead.
East Bladen answered with a long 84-yard, 13-play drive that was helped by a roughing the passer call against Wallace-Rose Hill, a 24-yard run by Murchison, a 14-yard run by Herring and the conversion of a fourth down. Murchison finished off the march with a 19-yard touchdown run, then added the two-point conversion to knot the game at 14-14 with 2:34 left before intermission.
The Eagles stopped Wallace-Rose Hill’s ensuing possession with a three and out, taking over after a puny punt at the Bulldogs’ 48 with just 48 seconds left in the half.
East Bladen used their timeouts and the sideline to move the ball quickly and found themselves at the Wallace-Rose Hill 15 and facing a fourth and 10 with just a handful of ticks left on the clock. McMillian rolled to the left and found Murchison at the 10 with a pass, and the bruising running back fought his way to the end zone, dragging three defenders with him as the clock went to zeros. The kick was no good, but East Bladen took a 20-16 lead into halftime.
Just before the Eagles accepted the second-half kickoff, East Bladen coach Robby Priest was asked what the second-half secret would be.
“There’s no secret,” he said. “We want to punch the ball in right now.”
He would not be disappointed, though the Eagles made it interesting.
Starting from its own 21, East Bladen began another long, methodical march. A 19-yard run by Murchison and a 15-yard penalty against Wallace-Rose Hill put helped put the ball at the Bulldogs’ 32. Three runs moved the ball to the 24 and, on fourth down, Murchison ran for 12 yards to the 12. He carried again on first down and scored — but the play was called back for holding.
A run gained 2 yards and a sack lost 7, but after an incomplete pass brought up another fourth down, McMillian found Murchison with a 27-yard touchdown pass that featured another couple of Bulldogs getting dragged into the end zone. Murchison again ran in the two-point conversion, finishing off a possession that took 7:23 off the clock and gave the Eagles a 28-14 lead.
Wallace-Rose Hill responded, falling on a squib kick at its own 47 and marching the remaining 53 yards in six plays. The Bulldogs scored with 2 minutes left in the third quarter and added the PAT to close the gap to 28-21.
East Bladen ran three plays to finish off the third quarter and continued deep into the fourth quarter, driving a total of 74 yards in 15 plays and scoring on a 1-yard run by Murchison with 5:58 showing in the game. McMillian hit a wide open Alex Stephens with the two-point conversion pass to give the Eagles a 36-21 edge.
Back came the Bulldogs. Starting at its own 33, Wallace-Rose Hill needed just six plays and less than 2 minutes to get the touchdown with 4:03 left to play. The point after brought the Bulldogs to within 36-28.
And onsides kick by Wallace-Rose Hill got batted around before East Bladen finally fell on it at the Bulldogs’ 49. The Eagles managed to secure one first down before the drive fizzled at the Wallace-Rose Hill 31 with less than 2 minutes to play.
The visitors wasted little time moving to midfield, and two 15-yard penalties against East Bladen moved the ball to the Eagles’ 21. Two runs gained the Byulldogs just 1 yard before an incomplete pass set up a fourth-and-9. The Eagles gave Wallace-Rose Hill another 5 yards with a penalty and the Bulldogs lofted a pass to the goal line that Jaquan Jones picked off and returned to the East Bladen 22.
Two knees ran out the clock on the Eagles’ win.
I’ve said all along we’ve been getting better,” Priest said. “This was a big one.
“The defense has come a long way — we’re not a finished product yet by any means,” he added. “And Farrell likes running behind his little brother (Larrell Murchison) — all 260 pounds of little brother. And Jalen is probably the hardest working kid I know … he’s a quiet leader and tonight he contributed a lot.”
Farrell Murchison led East Bladen on the ground with 172 yards on 29 carries, while Herring contributed 127 yards on 20 carries.
Through the air, McMillian was 7-for-15 for 98 yards. Jones had four receptions for 51 yards, while Farrell Murchison had two catches for 42 yards and Larrell Murchison had the other catch for 5 yards.
“Coach (Lenon) Fisher always told me that you want your team to be peaking at the end,” Priest said with a rare smile. “This is three in a row for us, so hopefully …”
The Eagles, who are now 4-5 overall and 3-2 in the conference, will travel to face Union on Friday.