ST. PAULS — The spoiler for St. Pauls coach Ernest King reunion against E.E. Smith, his former team, came from a player he coached on the defensive side of the ball that burnt the Bulldogs with his legs and arm on offense.
Golden Bulls quarterback Xeavier Bullock led a second-half explosion from the visitors on Friday night against the Bulldogs in a 43-18 win that included a big third quarter to stretch the gap out. Bullock played safety for E.E. Smith as an underclassman under King, and the senior led the experienced group to the season-opening win over their former coach.
“It was a very humbling experience. We knew we were coming in young and missing some key players, but that’s no excuse,” said King, who spent 12 seasons — three as a head coach — at E.E. Smith before coming to St. Pauls. “They’re a good football team. That would’ve been my senior class and they play with a lot of inspiration. We just got beat by a better ball club tonight.”
Bullock and Company stormed out of the halftime break with a two-play drive that lasted 26 seconds and was highlighted by a 55-yard touchdown run from Bullock. He added his second 50-plus yard touchdown of the quarter in the closing minutes when he weaved through the St. Pauls defense to go 53 yards for a touchdown, and put the Golden Bulls (1-0) up 29-6 with 1:57 left in the quarter.
Both teams traded out scores inside that final two minutes of the third when Dakota Oxendine returned the kickoff, after the 53-yard scamper from Bullock, 82 yards for a touchdown and cut the lead to 29-12. That margin was short lived when E.E. Smith came back two plays later to score on Bullock’s third rushing touchdown of the quarter from 19 yards out and go back up 36-12.
Bullock finished with 156 yards rushing and four total touchdowns including a 53-yard toss to Jurrod Hall in the second quarter.
In an offense that struggled to move the ball at times and hold onto the ball once drives started to click together, St. Pauls (0-1) running back Marqueise Coleman showed flashes of being the feature back that will fill the shoes of Chris Graham from last season.
Along with coming up with big runs early in the first quarter and in the third, Coleman left his mark on the game and in the record books late in the fourth quarter. After the Bulldog’s defense stuffed Bullock on a keeper at the one-yard-line and recovered a fumble, Coleman took a hand off two plays later and scored on a 99-yard touchdown run, tying a state record for the longest touchdown run.
“I like playing running back and it felt good to start off my first year playing varsity,” Coleman said. “It felt good and I knew I brought my team up some because they were down.”
Coleman finished with 203 yards on the ground with that one touchdown.
“We’ve always said that Marqueise was going to be a special football player for us and we saw it tonight,” King said. “He didn’t quit and did some things we asked him to do. He ran hard and that’s what we wanted to see.”
Reigning Robeson County offensive player of the year Noah Wheeler struggled to get into a passing rhythm with his receivers on the night going 6-for-22 passing with 60 yards passing and three interceptions that came at costly moments.
“We didn’t execute very well at all,” King said. “We played a good football team and they wanted it a little more than we did. We’re going to have to go back to the drawing board and we aren’t a bad football team, we’re just young.”
Wheeler accounted for the first touchdown for the Bulldogs on the final drive of the first quarter when he dove in from two yards out to cut the E.E. Smith lead to 15-6 heading into halftime.
“We got out to a slow start and we were playing with them until the second half,” King said.
St. Pauls hosts Union Pines Friday and Jordan travels to E.E. Smith
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.