There probably weren’t many people outside the East Mecklenburg locker room who believed the team could beat No. 2 Butler entering Friday night’s game.
But East Mecklenburg did just that, scoring 10 unanswered points in the game’s final t six minutes to earn a 10-7 victory against the Bulldogs in a game that was played at Garinger because of the wet weather.
Eagles junior kicker Christian Thomas booted what turned out to be the game-winning, 45-yard field goal with 2:14 left, splitting the uprights to give East Mecklenburg (3-4, 1-1) its first win against Butler since 2001.
Thomas’ extra point had tied the game just minutes earlier, when East Mecklenburg junior tailback Aaron Walker scored his team’s first points on a 7-yard touchdown run with six minutes left in the game.
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Butler (5-2, 1-1) was missing multiple starters for the second game in a row, including captains Benny LeMay and Clifton Duck, but Bulldogs coach Brian Hales declined to comment on why they didn’t play.
The Bulldogs’ offense, which was averaging 37 points per game, was held to 211 yards of total offense (including only 48 yards in the air) by an aggressive Eagles defense.
Butler senior running back Antwan Bivens led his team with 132 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries.
The Eagles’ offense also struggled with 138 yards of total offense.
But East Mecklenburg’s defense made the big stops when it needed to all game, while the Eagles’ offense took advantage of their opportunities in the final quarter.
Quote: “We’ve made big strides all season, but I feel like this team is still probably a year away from being really good. But we showed tonight that on any given (Friday) night we can come out here and get a big win. I’m tickled to death for these players.
“Our theme all year is to play ugly and try to win. We were able to do that tonight. – Barry Shuford, East Mecklenburg.
“We just didn’t play well enough to win and that’s all I need to say. – Butler coach, Brian Hales, on the loss.
Records: East Mecklenburg 3-4, 1-1 Southwestern 4A; Butler 5-2, 1-1 Southwestern.
Worth mentioning: East Mecklenburg kicker Christian Thomas is 6-for-6 on field goals this season and has hit two 45-yard field goals, including the game-winner against Butler. .... The Eagles have won three of their last four games, with big wins over rivals Butler and Providence. ...The driving rain for most of the game affected both teams’ offenses as the starting quarterbacks from Butler (Davis Cheek) and East Mecklenburg (Khalil Gilliam) went a combined 5-for-19 for 51 yards passing overall.
What's Next: East Mecklenburg hosts Rocky River and Butler hosts Myers Park both in Southwestern 4A games Friday.