Another chapter was added to an already great rivalry Friday night as the Lincolnton Wolves edged past the Maiden Blue Devils 31-28 in front of a near capacity crowd at Thomas E. Brown Stadium in Maiden.
Lincolnton head coach Scott Cloninger has been raving about his sophomore class since day one, and some of Friday night`s heros were from that heralded class.
Wideout T.J. Thompson took a Zack Gibson pass away from Maiden defender Alan Lane for a 31 yard pick-up, and more importantly kept the Wolves` final drive alive with under two minutes to play in the game.
Four plays later, on fourth down and seven from the Blue Devil`s nine yard line, kicker George Ramirez, another sophomore, drilled a 26 yard field goal to break a 28-28 tie.
The Lincolnton defense held the Blue Devils on four straight plays on their ensuing drive, and the Wolves were able to run out the clock to win at Maiden for the second consecutive time.
“That might have been the biggest play of the three weeks that we`ve played,” said Cloninger of Thompson`s catch, “He went up and made a super catch to give us a chance to win the ballgame.”
The play was even more satisfying for Gibson, the Wolves` quarterback.
“It slipped out of my hands and I shouldn`t have thrown it,” Gibson said, “But it was there and T.J. went up and got it. We call him Randy Moss in practice, and that was a Randy Moss type of play.”
Gibson may have had that pass slip out of his hands, but the senior quarterback was on target most of the evening. Gibson completed 17 of 29 passes for 295 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Lincolnton took a 14-0 lead just before half on a one yard scoring run by Lance Friday in the first period, followed by a 45-yard touchdown pass from Gibson to C.J. Wilson just before the break.
However, Petey McLain took the ensuing kickoff and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown to pull Maiden to within one score heading to the locker room at 14-7.
The Blue Devils kept that momentum heading into the third quarter. Maiden took the opening kickoff of the second half and drove right down the field tying the game at 14-14. Tommy Henry`s three-yard run capped the scoring drive.
The Wolves regained the lead on Gibson`s three-yard touchdown toss to Marcus Williams later in the third, and Lincolnton headed to the fourth and final quarter up 21-14.
Maiden just wouldn`t go away. The Blue Devils bounced right back when quarterback Vantrel England found Deon Henry in the endzone for a 33-yard scoring strike to even the score once again, this time at 21 all.
Neither team seemed to be able to stop the other in the final period, and the Wolves answered the Blue Devil`s score right back. Gibson scored on a three-yard run, and after Ramirez added the extra point, Lincolnton was back on top 28-21.
McLain had another huge play on Maiden`s next drive. The senior receiver took a screen pass from England and raced 51 yards to put the ball inside the Wolves` five yard line. A couple plays later, Henry scored from one yard out. Matt Kelly added the point after to tie the game for the third time at 28 each.
The Wolves final drive of the game was impressive. Gibson completed three passes on the drive for 50 yards setting up the game-winning field goal.
The game-winning drive started all the way back at the Wolves` eighteen yard line.
Coach Cloninger was very pleased with his team`s performance, especially the play of Gibson. “We have big playmakers right now, and when you have that your quarterback has all the confidence in the world,” the coach noted. “And I have all the confidence in the world in my quarterback,” said Cloninger.
Once again, Wilson led the Wolves` rushing attack, picking up 79 yards on 24 carries. Henry led the Blue Devils on the ground, gaining 112 yards on 19 carries.
Gibson distributed the ball around evenly through the air, completing passes to seven different receivers. Demery Brewer led the way with five catches for 109 yards, including a couple spectacular receptions.
Defensively, the Wolves did a good job of slowing down a high-powered Maiden offense. England was limited to four completions on eleven attempts for 88 yards. Derek Butler had two interceptions for the Wolves, while Lance Friday and Caleb Grooms had big games as well.
Friday continues to play well for the Wolves on both sides of the ball. Friday hauled in three passes for 66 yards and also rushed for a score on offense, and made many big tackles from his linebacker position on defense.
With the victory, the Wolves improve to 3-0 and will host another undefeated team on Friday when North Gaston (3-0) comes town. Maiden falls to 2-1, and will travel to Fred T. Foard this week.
by David Keever