The Lincolnton Wolves are awaiting Friday nightâ€™s showdown with East Lincoln and the game figures to draw a packed house at Lincolnton Memorial Field.
Lincolnton was flagged 15 times for 123 yards against the Vikings last week and turned the ball over four times. The scary part? They still won by 31 points.
Senior quarterback Zack Gibson will face another good secondary in the Mustangs. Clayon Conner, Thomas Huntley and Greyson Schram will attempt to slow the Wolves passing attack.
â€œWe need to be able to run the football against them some. You have to watch where Huntley is in the secondary because heâ€™s a very good defender,â€ Wolves head coach Scott Cloninger said.
While his team never seemed to get in a good rhythm versus South Iredell, one player impressed Cloninger and the coaching staff so much he has earned more playing time. Senior Mikey Bracy carried the ball twice for 18 yards and also did a solid job blocking at fullback.
Make no mistake about it, the Wolves respect East Lincoln, but in the first two days of practice the week theyâ€™ve focused more on fundamentals.
â€œYou canâ€™t make those type of mistakes and win football games. You have to worry about yourself before you worry about the other team and thatâ€™s what weâ€™re trying to do this week,â€ Cloninger offers as an explanation.
Last week, Lincolnton carried the ball 33 times and gained 179 yards. They are looking for more of the same heading into Friday.
â€œWe want to establish some sort of running game to keep it away from their offense. One of the things we have is, I donâ€™t think you can isolate on one individual receiver and Zack has done a good job spreading the ball around,â€ Cloninger said.
In Sykes and Huntley the Mustangs have two of the most explosive weapons in the area. Huntley was leading the area in receiving heading into the North Lincoln game, while Sykes impressed with a 240-yard rushing performance and 95-yard kickoff return against the Knights. Schram, who played an efficient game, also scares Cloninger.
â€œThose three are impressive. Coming off a 42-point night youâ€™re very concerned. Theyâ€™re very explosive. Any one of those three can beat you on a given night.â€
â€œYou have to find a balance defensively where you can keep an eye on all three and just try to slow them down,â€ Cloninger added.
When asked how fast Sykes is and if he thought he has gotten faster since last season, Cloninger was to the point.
â€œWhen he gets behind you, heâ€™s gone, thatâ€™s for sure.â€
With emotions expected to be at a fever pitch, Cloninger has been stressing to his team the importance of maintaining poise and keeping their heads in the game.
â€œA personal foul can come at some of the worst times, as it did North Lincoln,â€ he said. â€œYou have to play the game physically and mentally under control.â€
The last thing he wants to see is another 15-penalty performance. Against the Vikings, Lincolnton could get away with such inconsistency, but against a hungry and explosive Mustangs team, it wonâ€™t be a cakewalk if theyâ€™re unable to find good offensive rhythm.
by John Mark Brooks