With one day less of practice and potential rain still a threat, East Bladen and West Bladen will take the field Thursday for their third football games of the season.
The games were both moved from their usual Friday nights to Thursday evening because of the approach of what is now Tropical Storm Hermine — which could have the possibility of becoming a hurricane when it makes landfall in northern Florida.
West Bladen vs.Whiteville
The Knights, 2-0, will travel to Whiteville for a 7 p.m.kickoff with a Wolfpack that has dropped its first two games of the season, losing by a point in a weather-challenged game against North Brunswick and then getting hammered by East Bladen by four touchdowns.
West Bladen will still have to contend with players like quarterback Phillip Powell, who Knights coach Todd Pait said “can be dangerous on the run” along with running back Keyshawn Bellamy and wide receiver Cameron Smith.
The Wolfpack operates the offense out of the shotgun and spread, and will show the triple-option regularly.
“We’re going to have to stop that option,” Pait said, “and we’ve been focusing on it in practice this week.”
On defense, Whiteville will run a 40 set led by Bellamy at linebacker and Trey Lewis at another linebacker spot.
“Whiteville is athletic, has speed and is well coached,” Pait said. “They’ll be hungry for a win, so this is our biggest challenge of the season so far.”
The keys to winning for the Knights, according to Pait, is to “refocus on what’s important to us and cut out the penalties.”
He added the Knights are healthy for game time.
East Bladen vs. St. Pauls
The reports of the Eagles’ death were obviously exaggerated.
After a stunning, opening-season loss to South Columbus, East Bladen roared back to crush rival Whiteville, 43-15, and re-established its patented running game as well as putting an aerial attack on the radar of Four County Conference coaches.
The Eagles will host a St. Pauls squad that knocked off Class 4-A Douglas Byrd last week — but the game will be played a day early, on Thursday at 7 p.m.
“I don’t like one less day of practice,” East Bladen coach Robby Priest said, “because it ruins the usual routine.”
The Eagles will contend with a St, Pauls spread offense run by quarterback Noah Wheeler with feature running back Chris Graham and a stable of wide receivers in Dijuan McNair, Michael Barnes, Dakota Oxendine and Caleb Inman.
The Bulldofs operate the defense out of a 40 set led by linebacker Chris Ray and a front led by Elijah White.
“They really get after the ball,” Priest said. “That front four is tough.”
He added that East Bladen has focused this week on getting better and deeper at every position, but said there are specific keys to winning Thursday.
“We need to match their intensity and play all four quarters,” Priest said. “And we need to win the turnover battle.”
He said the Eagles are healthy for game time.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.