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Waccamaw rivals force another playoff rematch

A host of South Columbus Stallions take down West Brunswick's Khalil Gause in the first half at West Brunswick High School on Friday, Oct. 26, 2012. (Photo by StarNews file photo)

When South Columbus lost to East Bladen in the regular season, Stallions football coach Jake Fonvielle sat his players down after the game and told them they'd probably have another chance at the Eagles.

Fonvielle was playing the odds, and he was right. The Waccamaw Conference rivals meet Friday night in the playoffs for the third year in a row for what's been the most predictable local postseason matchup each year.

"We're both trying to win a state championship, so it's do or die," Fonvielle said. "We know everything about each other."

Both teams have high-scoring offenses. East Bladen relies on a strong running game and a road-grading offensive line. South Columbus throws opponents off balance by switching between a power running formation and a spread passing one.

Both teams have postseason experience and plenty of momentum entering this year's rematch in Elizabethtown. East Bladen is on a six-game winning streak; South Columbus has won four games in a row.

"I think it says a lot about our conference," East Bladen coach Robbie Priest said. "I know South Columbus is a great program. It's a pleasure to be able to play them and meet them in the third round. A lot of teams are at the house."

In the first matchup on Oct. 12, East Bladen threw South Columbus off with alignments that forced Stallion defenders out of position for a surprisingly lopsided 28-6 victory. 

"You've got to line up correctly," Fonvielle said. "They do a few things as far as lining up and calls where it can confuse your linebackers on making the strong calls."

Tricks like that won't work for either team the second time around, and both coaches say Friday will come down to a shoving match.

"You've got to control the line of scrimmage this late in the season or you're not going to win the game," Fonvielle said.

Priest said that frame of mind has turned his team's season around after an 0-2 start.

"All three backs have over 1.000 yards," Priest said. "That didn't happen by mistake. We've got an offensive line that's come a long way."

One thing that will make Stallions happy is that they're on the strong side of history: in the previous two years, the team that lost the regular-season game won the playoff game. 

But East Bladen hopes to buck that trend this year, as the Eagles' eight starting sophomores have grown up and stepped up.

"Our season was kind of on hold until they caught on," Priest said. "And it took our first two losses for them to see the light."

Whoever wins Friday will be in the state semifinals for 2A, and neither coach cares much how their team gets there. 

"That's what they do you in the playoffs," Fonvielle said. "You find ways to win."


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Playoffs Week 3

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S. Columbus at E. Bladen

Red Springs at James Kenan

East Columbus at Albemarle