The East Lincoln Mustangs have one last chance for a win before Southern Piedmont action starts.
Lake Norman will visit East Lincoln Friday night, as Mustangs head coach Mike Byus continues to stress the importance of execution and the minimization of mistakes.
A microcosm of East Lincolnâ€™s season came during the West Caldwell game. Having moved the ball at will down to the Warriorsâ€™ four-yard line, the Mustangs committed three straight penalties knocking them out of field-goal range back to the 34.
â€œWe have to execute something, especially when it matters â€” under pressure and in the red zone,â€ Byus said. â€œWe move the ball and make mental mistakes when we canâ€™t afford to. Every clutch situation we make a mistake and we have to stop that.â€
Another area Byus would like to see continue to improve is the offensive line. This week, Will Herron will move up from JV and start at right guard.
With Herron in the mix, that means senior running back Ryan Sykes will be running behind four sophomores and one junior.
â€œRyan ran hard last week. Theyâ€™re slowly getting better, but heâ€™s getting yards on his own a lot of times,â€ Byus said.
Sykes racked up 120 yards on 20 carries and had one touchdown last week with 6â€™1â€ 230 pound junior fullback Sam Justice leading the way.
Another player that continues impose his will against opposing defenses is senior wideout Thomas Huntley.
Huntley had five catches in the fourth quarter alone against the Warriors, after sitting the whole first half due to a sprained ankle.
On the season, he now has 26 catches for 352 yards, an average of 14 per catch.
No. 1 Marcus Horton and No. 10 are two Wildcats East Lincolnâ€™s defense will focus on stopping, but Byus believes because of a shared similarity that itâ€™s hard to accurately assess Lake Normanâ€™s talent.
â€œYou canâ€™t tell how good their backs are because theyâ€™ve had trouble putting points on the board, just like we have,â€ he said.
The Mustangs limited the Warriors to 90 yards on 40 carries, a 2.25 per carry average, but did surrender 225 passing yards.
â€œWeâ€™ve started to play better the last couple of games on defense,â€ Byus said. â€œBut weâ€™re not where we need to be. We are recognizing formations better, which is half the battle.â€
â€œWeâ€™re trying to teach the game of football to them,â€ he added.
Perhaps, the most frustrating thing Byus has encountered is knowing his team has the talent, but has lacked the mental focus necessary to win.
â€œWeâ€™ve talked about getting a win before heading into conference play,â€ he said. â€œThey can do it physically, but if they donâ€™t prepare for the game and focus mentally theyâ€™re not going to get it done.â€
by John Mark Brooks