Although not necessarily being billed as a make-or-break week, East Bladen and West Bladen will each be facing the perennial front-runners of the Four County Conference football standings on Friday — and Bladen County fans won’t have to go far to see the games.
The Eagles will be hosting rival Clinton at 7 p.m. at Lenon Fisher Stadium, and the Knights will welcome Wallace-Rose Hill to The Castle at 7 p.m.
East Bladen comes into the matchup with a 3-2 mark overall and 1-0 record in the conference after last week’s 42-0 dismantling of Midway thanks to a smothering defense and a career night from running back Ethan Hines, who scored four touchdowns — two rushing, one receiving and one fumble return.
Clinton is putting together another deep run in the state playoffs, coming into Friday’s game at 5-0 overall and 1-0 in the conference after a 50-6 thrashing of Pender County last week.
West Bladen is reeling from a rash of injuries that have helped lead to a three-game losing streak. The Knights are 2-3 overall and 0-1 in the conference after a 26-12 loss to Union last week.
Wallace-Rose Hill may also be headed for its usual deep run in the state playoffs. The Bulldogs are 5-0 overall and 1-0 in the conference after a 46-6 win over Heidi Trask.
East vs. Clinton
The Dark Horses, ranked No. 3 among Class 2-A schools in the state according to the most recent Associated Press poll, brings one of the North Carolina’s most versatile running backs in any classification in senior Ryheem Skinner — a two-time All-Cape Fear Region selection and All-Four County Conference choice who rushed for just short of 4,300 yards over the two previous seasons.
And he’s back at it again this season.
Skinner has led the Clinton ground game with 580 yards and eight touchdowns on 57 carries this far. He’s also caught four passes for 100 yards.
But he’s not all the Dark Horses have to offer. Sophomore Jalen Smith has rushed for 301 yards and leads the team with nine TDs; junior quarterback Kris Williams has rushed for 208 yards and three TDs, as well as completed 7-of-9 passes for 201 yards and three TDs; and senior running back Tyion Wright has rushed for 231 yards and four touchdowns.
As a team, Clinton has scored 232 points through games.
On defense, the Dark Horses have allowed just 29 points all season, and is led by senior linebacker Michael Kramer with 46 tackles.
East Bladen is expected to be at full strength Friday.
West vs. Wallace-Rose Hill
The Bulldogs will arrive in Dublin ranked No. 1 in Class 1-A according to The Associated Press state poll thanks to an offense averaging 33 points per game and a defense that is the best in the Four County Conference so far, allowing just 26 points all season.
Senior quarterback Aliza Carter directs the Wallace-Rose Hill offense, and he’s 16-of-38 through the air for 376 yards and four touchdowns. He has also rushed for 276 yards and five touchdowns on 39 carries.
But the Bulldogs also have the usual stable of solid running backs: junior Desmond Newkirk has rushed for 302 yards and four touchdowns on 58 carries; junior Malcolm Gray has run for 247 yards and two TDs on 40 carries; and junior Dennis Nichols has rushed for 176 yards and two touchdowns on just 21 carries.
The stingy Wallace-Rose Hill defense is led by junior linebacker Javonte Williams, who has 56 tackles thus far — including 36 solo — and junior defensive back Patrick Farrier, who has 20 tackles and three fumble recoveries.
West Bladen will go into Friday’s contest with a number of backups, including quarterback Scott Bowen, who will get just his second start behind center.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.