ST. PAULS — After outscoring East Bladen 21-6 in the second half last week, St. Pauls football coach Ernest King wants his team to go into this week’s matchup with West Bladen with the same mentality it had coming out from halftime rather than the one that it started the game with.
“We want to turn around and cut out the first-half mistakes,” King said. “When it was all said and done, it was an improvement and we want to turn around and carry on that second half through the rest of the season.”
In its two losses, St. Pauls (1-2) has suffered from slow starts with early miscues and King hopes he team has learned and will start on the right foot at home against West Bladen (2-1).
“Each game we’ve lost, we’ve turned around and put ourselves in a bind in the first half by turnovers and making mental mistakes and killing drives,” he said.
Both teams are coming off losses with the Bulldogs dropping a 42-28 loss to East Bladen and West Bladen losing at Whiteville, 35-6. West Bladen won this matchup 43-20 last season.
Riding the legs of Chris Graham out of the backfield, the Bulldogs look to improve the run game with adding quarterback Noah Wheeler more to the mix and getting Caleb Inman back from injury.
“We’ve got to get Noah in the running game a little more so it will take the pressure off Chris so you’ve got two people to defend in the run,” King said. “We want to turn around and get more balanced so we don’t have to throw the ball as much, but part of that is cutting out on the mistakes so we won’t have to throw the ball as much in the second half to come back from the hole we dug ourselves in the first half.”
Graham leads the team in rushing with 180 yards on the ground as the workhorse for the team in the backfield. Wheeler has provided an extra threat at quarterback with his legs at times with four rushing touchdowns this season.
The defensive front seven is setting the tone for the team this season and will face another challenge going against West Bladen. The Knights’ offense is led by Weston Pidgeon with 213 yards passing and four touchdowns. Running back James Moore has 232 yards on the ground.
Purnell Swett at Westover
After back-to-back wins over Robeson County teams, Purnell Swett takes the best record in the county to Westover on Friday.
The Rams have earned two convincing wins over Red Springs and South Robeson at home and now take to the road to take on an athletic Westover (1-2) team. Purnell Swett’s (2-1) run defense will be in for another rushing challenge with running back Jareel Allen and quarterback Warren Bell out of the option attack. Allen has 370 yards rushing this season.
On offense, Purnell Swett will look to continue to fire on all cylinders with the run and pass game out of the spread attack behind quarterback Luke Oxendine, who has a county-leading seven total touchdowns and an abundance of athletes to pass and hand the ball off to.
Seventy-First at Lumberton
Next year, this matchup between Lumberton and Seventy-First will be a Southeastern Conference battle, but for now this contest provides the Pirates with a tough non-conference test.
Lumberton (1-2) is coming off a 28-21 loss at South View, a game in which the Pirates led 21-7 at halftime and the Tigers stormed back with two touchdowns in the closing minute to steal away. Sophomore Braylan Grice has created a strong quarterback-receiver combination this season with Tyreik McCallum as Grice has totaled 235 yards passing and McCallum has 205 yards receiving.
The run game from Seventy-First (2-1) will be a factor on Friday with senior Elijah McFadyen and junior Jaylon Jackson combining to create a two-back threat from the backfield. McFadyen has 522 yards rushing and nine touchdowns. Jackson has 211 yards on the ground.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.