ELIZABETHTOWN — For the first time in a number of years, Friday’s regular-season clash between East Bladen and West Bladen will have more than just county bragging rights on the line. With both teams standing at 5-5 overall, the winner is poised to earn a better playoff seeding, while the other may be relegated to a wildcard spot.
“It’s still East against West,” Eagles coach Robby Priest said. “It’s a big game for both schools, and I think each will be ready.”
After an 0-3 start, East Bladen has been on the rise ever since — and two weeks ago knocked off the No. 3 Class 1-A team in the state, Wallace-Rose Hill, by a 36-28 verdict. The Eagles are now 4-2 in the Four County Conference.
“We’re getting better,” Priest said. “The kids are working hard and it’s been paying off.”
The Knights, who are 3-3 in the Four County Conference, will offer a far bigger challenge to East Bladen that in years past.
On offense, West Bladen will bring a running game that gets spread around to a minimum of four players — De’quan Lennon leads the Knights with 676 yards rushing and eight touchdowns; Malcolm Vaught has 659 yards with 10 touchdowns; Malique McDowell, recently returned from an ankle injury, has 620 yards and four touchdowns; and quarterback Colby Lewis has 323 yards and five touchdowns.
But the Knights will also throw the ball, either when necessary or when least expected. Lewis is 33-for-65 through the air for 609 yards and nine touchdowns. Vaught has caught 11 balls for 174 yards and six touchdowns.
“They have a lot of team speed on offense,” Priest said, “as well as a few playmakers who jump out when you watch them on film.”
Over on defense, West Bladen is led by their big man up front, Semorrick Jessup, along with linebackers Ed Owens and Parker Allen.
“They fill up the holes fast,” Priest said, “so we’re going to have to execute our blocks well and the backs will have to hit the holes quickly.”
Overall, Priest said the Eagles have been having good practices and, on Friday, hope to continue improving on eliminating penalties and turnovers. He added that they hope to play typical East Bladen football by “running the ball and eating up clock.”