ELIZABETHTOWN — East Bladen and coach Robby Priest will welcome a familiar face to the visitors’ sideline Friday when coach Russell Dove brings his team to Lenon Fisher Stadium — but this time Dove won’t be with West Bladen. Instead, he’ll be leading the South Columbus Stallions into a non-conference game against the Eagles.
“He’s a good coach and I wish him the best,” Priest said, “just not this Friday.”
Last season, East Bladen went to Tabor City and gave South Columbus a 36-6 thrashing behind a ground game led by then juniors Ethan and Eian Hines.
The Stallions come to town with some solid experience in the backfield that includes senior running backs Aaron Bellamy, Dennis Leggett and Bailey Chestnutt, but a change in quarterback puts junior Robby Spencer at the helm of the Wing T — and Spencer will be a formidable challenge at 6-foot, 3 inches and 210 pounds.
Bellamy rushed for 380 yards and two touchdowns on 80 carries last season, while Leggett led the way with 1,494 yards and 17 touchdowns on 217 carries. Spencer saw some action under center last year, completing 18-of-40 passes for 292 yards and five touchdowns.
When Spencer drops back to pass, he’ll likely be looking for one of his backs or senior wide receivers Mario Hernandez and Bobby Gore.
“I like the way the quarterback looks on film,” Priest said. “And that running back (Leggett) is a solid player.”
On defense, South Columbus will operate out of a 53 and rely on two-way players to lead the way — including Spencer, Chestnutt and Bellamy at linebacker, Gore at cornerback and Leggett at free safety.
The Stallions’ returning, leading tacklers from last season include junior tackle Seth Buffkin with 67, Spencer with 61 and senior defensive end/linebacker Kendrick Green with 52.
“I wish we still had four more weeks to prepare for the season,” Priest said. “We’re not where I hoped we’d be — we still have some kinks to work out — but we’re not looking to peak at the start of the season, either.”
Priest added that on Friday, the Eagles’ defense “will have to play lights out” and the keys to winning will be minimizing the mistakes.
For the Eagles, senior running back/cornerback Kyle Tatum missed both scrimmages while nursing an ankle sprain, but is expected to be available Friday.
“I’ve been doing everything I can to get ready,” Tatum said at the east Bladen Jamboree last week. “I can’t wait to get out there.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.