The stage is set.
After East Lincolnâ€™s 42-14 thrashing of Bessemer City Friday, the Mustangs will face cross-county rival West Lincoln Friday in a battle for second place.
The Mustangs (4-5, 3-1) hung 28 points on the Yellow Jackets in the first quarter, which forced a coaching dilemma for Mustangs head coach Mike Byus.
Instead of coaching against turnovers and penalties, he had a much simpler problem.
â€œWe came out and played real well early. When you get in a situation like that, the second half is kind of a struggle getting people in positions they havenâ€™t played in,â€ he said. â€œMaking sure your players understand youâ€™re not mad at them or punishing them, but you canâ€™t allow them to play anymore,â€ he said half quipping.
Nearly everyone got into the act for the Mustangs. Receivers Thomas Huntley, Brent Brown, Nick Harmon and Spencer Sidney each found the end zone.
â€œThey (the receivers) did a good job. Theyâ€™re starting to become pretty good blockers. They all had a touchdown, so the wealth was spread a little bit. Itâ€™s hard sometimes because there is only one football to go around,â€ Byus said.
Huntley had a game-high seven catches for 173 yards. On the season, he has 47 catches for 717 yards and six touchdowns, leading many people to believe heâ€™s the best receiver in the area.
â€œHeâ€™s been consistent with the exception of his ankle injury. On a whole, heâ€™s been a good quiet leader. Heâ€™s not going to give verbal commands to anybody, but he works really hard in practice,â€ Byus said.
â€œI donâ€™t think anybody knows exactly how fast he is, because heâ€™s very explosive,â€ he added.
â€œThey (the offense) executed as good as Iâ€™ve seen them do it all year and played well defensively. It was a good week of practice and it turned into a good game,â€
East Lincoln also received a shot in the arm, as Ryan Sykes, donning a knee brace, returned to the lineup. While Sykes turned in a pedestrian two carries for three yards, a greater purpose was served.
â€œHe was just testing it. He knew he was going to play, but he didnâ€™t know how much. We just wanted to get him some confidence heading into next week,â€ Byus said.
Byus expects his star running back to be â€˜full throttleâ€™ versus the Rebels. Sophomore Adrian Forney, who did an admirable job in Sykesâ€™ absence, had six carries for 23 yards against the Jackets. Heâ€™s still expected to see carries despite Sykes return to the lineup.
Ten different players toted the football for East. Quarterbacks Greyson Schram and Payton Brady were among that number, but their greatest impact came with their arm.
Schram went 7-for-13 passing for 162 yards and two touchdowns. He also had a 12-yard rushing touchdown. Brady was a perfect five-for-five with 100 yards and two touchdowns through the air. He found the end zone on a two-yard run for East Lincolnâ€™s final score of the night.
Despite Bradyâ€™s efficiency, Byus says there is no quarterback controversy, saying Schram remains the starter.
On the defensive side, Matt Warren and Fred Wingate both turned in stellar performances.
Byus was also pleased with the play of Cody Whitt, who Byus says is his, â€˜quarterback of the secondary.â€™
â€œHeâ€™s done a great job for us all season. Iâ€™m real proud of the year heâ€™s having.â€
Harmonâ€™s touchdown marks the fourth-consecutive week heâ€™s found the end zone.
Bessemer City (0-8, 0-3) faces Lincolnton Friday night in an away game.
by John Mark Brooks