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Mustangs cling to playoff hopes

If the East Lincoln Mustangs are to keep their playoff chances alive they’ll have to beat the North Gaston Wildcats on Friday in a key Big South 3A contest.

The Wildcats will show a 4-2 look on defense. Head coach Matt Rikard was pleased with their offensive outing against Berry Academy and believes they need more of the same against the Wildcats.
“We just have to have ball control. We have to stay well-balanced between the pass and the run,” he said.
Thomas Huntley and Grayson Schram have really emerged for the Mustangs’ offense. Schram has hooked up with Huntley for four touchdowns in their last two ball games. Rikard is pleased with them both.
“Thomas is playing well, but lot of that is because of Schram getting better at quarterback. It’s just his confidence in his receivers. Early on, he was waiting to make sure somebody was open, now he’s just trusting that they’re going to be there,” he said.
Despite racking up well over 300 yards against the Cardinals, the coach says one area really hurt them.
“We have to do a better job picking up blitzes. That’s one of the things that hurt us against Berry,” Rikard said.

The Wildcats run multiple sets on offense, but are usually based out of an I-Formation. Arguably, the most potent weapon for North Gaston is senior running back Rafael Littlejohn.
”You have to stop him (Rafael), but being able to stop him doesn’t guarantee success. They still throw the ball pretty well,” Rikard said.
Jake Campbell, Jeff Johnson’s favorite target, leads the receiving corps. Rikard believes the same about him as he does Littlejohn.
“He’s good. He gets a lot of yardage after the catch. He has good hands, but again he’s not the only one there. They have two or three good receivers,” he said.
Rikard wants two things from his defense against the Wildcats.
“We have to get pressure on the quarterback. We would like to force a couple of turnovers,” he said.

Although, the special teams’ unit has put East in good field position in recent weeks, Rikard is still looking for that elusive special teams’ score.
“Last week, we wanted to get a touchdown on special teams and we weren’t able to do it. They set us up with pretty good field position but we weren’t able to score one.”by John Mark Brooks

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