Lincolnton quarterback Zack Gibson had big dreams entering his fourth year as the Wolvesâ€™ signal-caller. So far, those dreams are being realized.
With back-to-back wins over South Point and Maiden and pin-point accuracy throwing the ball, Gibsonâ€™s senior season couldnâ€™t have started much better.
â€œIt feels good. This is what I dreamed for winning three in a row, playing the way Iâ€™m playing, the team playing well, the receivers catching the ball,â€ he said.
While Gibson attended several quarterback camps over the summer, the most poignant moment came at Virginia Tech at a Nike Combine.
The 6â€™2â€ 185-pound QB saw a cornerback from Florida who had a 45-inch vertical and ran a 4.18 40. Thatâ€™s when he knew it was time to get better.
â€œI saw the way they (those athletes) were performing and I wasnâ€™t quite up to par with them, so I started lifting hard, then I would go throw and watch films to see what I could do better this year,â€ he said.
To this point, his regimen has paid off. Through the Wolvesâ€™ first three games, he is 35-of-56 passing with 677 yards and seven touchdowns against just three interceptions.
Perhaps, the most telling game was his most recent one, lighting up the vaunted Blue Devilsâ€™ secondary to the tune of 17-of-29 passing, 295 yards and two touchdowns.
Before anyone thinks the quarterback is just out for his own headlines and accolades, heâ€™s quick to point out he couldnâ€™t do it without his receiversâ€”a talent pool so deep seven different pass catchers had at least one reception against Maiden.
Last season, instead of praise, Lincolntonâ€™s receivers drew the ire of coaches and fans alike for their inability to catch the football consistentlyâ€”a problem Gibson believes was adequately addressed by head coach Scott Cloninger.
â€œIn the off-season all coach (Cloninger) talked about was all the dropped balls last year. During the summer, I would go down and throw with all the skill-position players,â€ he said.
â€œIt shows up, theyâ€™ve been working hard and I just put it up there and they go get it,â€ he added.
Demery Brewer, Shane Faw, T.J. Thompson, Mardriekus Mayfield, Jeremy Smith, Derek Butler and Demery Williams all have speed, hands and undeniable talentâ€”a fact not missed by Gibson.
â€œWe have people that can catch the ball great, have speed and they know how to get open. Itâ€™s as plain as thatâ€”thatâ€™s about all you can ask for as a quarterback,â€ he said.
Cloninger, in fact, feels his group of receivers is the deepest receiving corps heâ€™s ever been associated with.
â€œTheyâ€™re not the fastest group, but we can go seven deep. They bring speed, good route-running, but they also catch the ball well,â€ he said.
Gibson and the Wolves have another big showdown tonight as they host also-undefeated North Gaston. And after that? Lincolnton will pay a visit to former Midwest 2A foe, the Shelby Golden Lions.
Although Gibson didnâ€™t say what all his off-season dreams entailed, you can be sure a Southern Piedmont title and state championship ring were part of it, but for now heâ€™s just enjoying the ride.
â€œWe always go one game at a time. Every week we have fun, weâ€™re just enjoying our wins and looking for bigger and better things in the future,â€ he said.
All the extra work spent watching film to learn defensive coverages, recognize defensive backsâ€™ tendencies and if a corner is aggressive or not has definitely been paying off.
Not to mention plenty of sweat in the weight room, has elevated Gibsonâ€™s play from above average to spectacular.
â€œHeâ€™s done exactly what a senior should do. He worked hard in the off-season, gained 15 pounds and has put himself in a position to have a good senior year,â€ Cloninger said.
â€œThereâ€™s nothing free in life anymore. You have to work for what you want and thatâ€™s what Zack did.
To this point, Wake Forest, Elon, Appalachian State and East Carolina have been recruiting Gibsonâ€™s services on the football field.
And although heâ€™s also an all-conference basketball player, if it comes down to choosingâ€”in his mind the decision has already been made.
â€œDonâ€™t get me wrong, I like playing basketball, but football is my love.â€
by John Mark Brooks