If the East Lincoln Mustangs are to keep their playoff chances alive theyâ€™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.
â€œWe just have to have ball control. We have to stay well-balanced between the pass and the run,â€ he said.
Thomas Huntley and Grayson Schram have really emerged for the Mustangsâ€™ offense. Schram has hooked up with Huntley for four touchdowns in their last two ball games. Rikard is pleased with them both.
â€œThomas is playing well, but lot of that is because of Schram getting better at quarterback. Itâ€™s just his confidence in his receivers. Early on, he was waiting to make sure somebody was open, now heâ€™s just trusting that theyâ€™re going to be there,â€ he said.
Despite racking up well over 300 yards against the Cardinals, the coach says one area really hurt them.
â€œWe have to do a better job picking up blitzes. Thatâ€™s one of the things that hurt us against Berry,â€ 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.
â€You have to stop him (Rafael), but being able to stop him doesnâ€™t guarantee success. They still throw the ball pretty well,â€ Rikard said.
Jake Campbell, Jeff Johnsonâ€™s favorite target, leads the receiving corps. Rikard believes the same about him as he does Littlejohn.
â€œHeâ€™s good. He gets a lot of yardage after the catch. He has good hands, but again heâ€™s not the only one there. They have two or three good receivers,â€ he said.
Rikard wants two things from his defense against the Wildcats.
â€œWe have to get pressure on the quarterback. We would like to force a couple of turnovers,â€ he said.
Although, the special teamsâ€™ unit has put East in good field position in recent weeks, Rikard is still looking for that elusive special teamsâ€™ score.
â€œLast week, we wanted to get a touchdown on special teams and we werenâ€™t able to do it. They set us up with pretty good field position but we werenâ€™t able to score one.â€by John Mark Brooks