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Dominating rushing leads Wolves past Rebels

Above, Wolves’ running back Dusty Friday fights for yardage against the Rebels’ defense. Friday ended the game with 16 carries for 123 yards.

Right, Will Tallent looks for a cutback lane in Friday’s game. Tallent returned from injury and rushed for 115 yards on only 11 carries. Gene Arp had been the Rebels’ running back filling in while Tallent was sidelined with an ankle injury. Joseph Brymer / LTN Photos

For three and a half quarters, the game between
the unblemished West Lincoln Rebels and Lincolnton
Wolves didn`t live up to expectations.
That all changed when junior linebacker Jon Thomas picked off a Zack Gibson pass at his own 20-yard line and returned it to Lincolnton`s 17-yard line. That play gave the West Lincoln faithful and team new
life.
Unfortunately for the Rebels, the 21-6 hole they had dug for themselves was just too deep to emerge victorious losing a hard fought Midwest 2A Conference opener 21-18.
The Wolves offensive line pummeled the Rebels in their
first drive. An eight-play drive, that began at
Lincolnton`s own 37-yard line, was culminated with a
20-yard touchdown by Wolves` running back Lance
Friday. George Ramirez converted the point after for a 7-0 lead.
In the second quarter, Lincolnton followed the same
formula; punishing runs up the middle and sweep plays.
This time the Wolves were able to cash in on a
seven-play drive that again ended with junior Lance
Friday scoring on a 20-yard run. Friday was helped out
by teammate Jeremy Smith who threw a key block on the
play. Ramirez converted the point after making the
score 14-0.
West Lincoln was reeling but luckily for them, they
answered the Lincolnton punches with experience.
Senior tailback Will Tallent, who had been sidelined
for a couple of weeks with a severely sprained ankle,
broke a couple of tackles and dashed 67-yards before
being caught at the one-yard line by a hustling Ray
Conley.
Sophomore quarterback Taylor Woodie cashed in on a one-yard quarterback sneak. Alex Ochoa`s kick was
blocked leaving West down 14-6.
Lincolnton head coach Scott Cloninger went deep into his playbook early and often. In the second quarter,
Wolves` QB Zack Gibson tossed the ball behind the line of scrimmage to backup quarterback and flanker Derek Butler. Butler launched the ball nearly 40 yards to a
wide-open player who dropped what appeared to be a definite touchdown.
The pass was one of six drops for Lincolnton receivers in the first half. Nevertheless, the Rebels hung tight
down 14-6 at halftime.

West Lincoln behind an eleven-yard run and a 22-yard run by Tallent marched the ball down to Lincolnton`s
29-yard line before fumbling the ball away to the
Wolves.
The play was big as far as momentum goes. The Rebels`
defense did solid job putting the Wolves in a third
and 15. Gibson connected with Lance Friday for only
eight yards resulting in a fourth down.
Lincolnton dug
into their playbook again, this time a fake punt
running play resulted in an eight-yard run by former
Rebel Darrell Friday to keep their drive alive.
Rebels’ head coach Butch Parker believed that play was a big momentum swing.
“That’s a great call by Scott Cloninger and his staff and let’s be honest about that. They caught us sleeping and that was big,” he said.
The home team was quick to capitalize again after West
put them in a precarious situation.
On third and 16,
Gibson threw a pass into the end zone to Dustin Metts
with Dustin Hester closing fast. Hester appeared to
have had the interception but the referees ruled that
Metts came down with it for a touchdown to put
Lincolnton ahead 21-6.
“I saw the ball coming up and thought I’d just go up and grab it with two hands, he bumped into me and I saw the ball fall so I just grabbed it. We both tipped it and it was bobbling in the air and I just grabbed it out of the air,” Metts said describing the play.
With under eight minutes in the contest, Thomas`
interception on a slant route gave the Rebels the ball
at Lincolnton`s 17-yard line. Woodie lofted a perfect
fade pass to Hester who caught it to bring the score
to 21-12 with 6:49 left in the ball game. The
conversion run failed.
The resilient Rebels got the ball back with 4:44 on
the clock. A Woodie to Gene Arp completion for 21
yards was aided by a 15-yard penalty on Lincolnton.
Woodie then hooked up with Ben Poole on a 14-yard pass
to move the ball to the two-yard line. Paul `the
Bruiser` Chambers banged it in from one-yard out
moving the score to 21-18.
An onside kick attempt failed which ended the Rebels` chances.
Cloninger knew that in some ways his team was fortunate to come away with the win.
“We’re going to take chances. We did a halfback pass, we faked the punt and the play in the endzone, I had a good, clear shot at it— their guy probably had it intercepted and it fell into our guy’s lap and some days I would rather be lucky than good,” Cloninger said.
“I thought we played well in the first half and in the third quarter, but I think we shot ourselves in the foot. We made way too many mistakes. We dropped passes and were offsides,” Cloninger added.
Wolves’ running back Dusty Friday finished with over 100 yards for the game, a fact Cloninger was very pleased with.
“That’s what we’ve been looking for. I truly believe a lot of the reason we were successful tonight was the non-conference schedule we’ve played. We’ve played good people and I feel like when you play good people, you’re going to get better,” he said.
Parker took full blame for the Rebels’ first loss.
“This game was lost tonight by West Lincoln’s head football coach, not the officials and not the players. I made some errors. I didn’t prepare my kids amply enough for the kind of atmosphere they were going to have. In that first drive you could tell,” he said.
Parker was very proud of his team responding with 12 unanswered points to make it a game again.
“So many times you read in the paper, ‘I’m so proud of my guys, they never quit,’ but sometimes it’s lip service. Tonight, our kids genuinely never quit. When we went down 21-6 they had every opportunity to just fold it up but we hung in there,” he said.
The leading passer for the game was Gibson who, aside
from his lone interception, showed impressive accuracy
connecting on eight passes out of 15 attempts.
Tallent had a solid return from injury carrying the ball 11 times for 115 yards. Dusty Friday, Lance`s older
brother, picked up 52 yards in the second half on his
way to the first 100-yard performance for a Lincolnton
back this season.
Poole and Thomas both recorded interceptions for the Rebels. Poole, Antonio Rojo and Daniel Soto were standout defenders for West.
For Lincolnton, 10th grade linebacker Caleb Grooms displayed excellent lateral mobility turning in a strong performance. Defensive linemen Wesley Thompson, Kyle Snyder and Abner Rangel all applied pressure to Woodie.
The main discrepancy came on the ground with
Lincolnton outgaining West 309-141.
The Rebels fall to 4-1 on the season, while Lincolnton
moves to 3-2.

by John Mark Brooks

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