East Lincoln versus West is one of the most fierce rivalries in the county. Even though that is the case, East Lincoln Mustangsâ€™ head coach Matt Rikard has one pivotal thing on his mind entering the contest.
â€œWe have to control the ball. We canâ€™t fumble.â€
The Mustangs had five turnovers in their season opener against the Bandys Trojans, with three of the fumbles taking place inside the Trojansâ€™ 25-yard line.
There was plenty to be happy about as Ryan Sykes carried the ball 18 times for 120 yards. East Lincoln also limited one of the better 2A running backs in the state Chris Spade to only 68 yards rushing.
Despite Sykesâ€™ performance, Rikard feels those numbers could have been even better.
â€œUpfront we have to do a better job of staying on our blocks and Ryan Sykes has to have another good game,â€ he said.
Another area that East struggled was throwing the football. The passing game was worst than anemic as they netted 0 yards passing.
â€œWe have to be more efficient throwing the ball. That accounted for two of our turnovers and again that goes back to having a ball-control offense,â€ Rikard said.
The West Lincoln Rebels debuted their new I-Wing offense and it was a smashing success. Sophomore quarterback Taylor Woodie rushed for 136 yards, while fullback Paul Chambers neared the century mark with 98 yards, tailback Will Tallent contributed with 80 of his own.
â€œThey have a much improved option game with Will Tallent and Taylor Woodie. Woodie runs the ball well and they have a passing game that complements their running game very well,â€ Rikard said.
Any time a football team runs the option, one of the most important factors is the defense staying disciplined in their assignments.
â€œThey do have some misdirection plays that could cause our linebackers problems. They have a very balanced offense,â€ Rikard said.
When asked what the X-factor in this ballgame will be, Rikard did not hesitateâ€”reiterating an earlier point.
â€œWeâ€™re not going to beat anybody if we keep turning the ball overâ€”plain and simple.â€
East Lincoln won in blowout fashion last year, Rikard believes both teams want those bragging rights more than anything.
â€œThe kids in both areas understand that. As coaches we donâ€™t have to say very much because these are the people they see every weekend. Itâ€™s nice to have bragging rights in the county, West Lincoln wants it just as bad as East Lincoln.â€by John Mark Brooks