The East Lincoln Mustangs (4-5, 3-1) are riding high after a convincing 42-14 victory over Bessemer City.
While that was enough to be happy about, the Mustangsâ€™ star senior running back Ryan Sykes, who originally was expected to miss four games. Fortunately for the East Lincoln faithful, Sykes missed only one and will be nearly 100-percent for Fridayâ€™s battle for second place against county rival West Lincoln (3-6, 3-1).
â€œHeâ€™s not going to be 100-percent and heâ€™s going to be aggravated with that knee brace. Heâ€™s hungry to play again. If we can give him some holes, I think heâ€™ll do well,â€ East Lincoln head coach Mike Byus said.
East Lincoln racked up 361 yards of total offense against the young Yellow Jackets, including 263 yards through the air. Theyâ€™re hoping for more of the same against the Rebels.
â€œWe have to continue to build upon what weâ€™re doing. Weâ€™re learning each week,â€ Byus said. â€œItâ€™s not just a base offense, itâ€™s a multiple look, so Iâ€™ve been pleased weâ€™ve been getting better each week,â€ he added.
Byus hopes the Mustangs are able to do a good job recognizing coverages and certain defensive sets, but more than anything heâ€™s hoping for crisp execution.
â€œThat doesnâ€™t mean that we can keep getting better versus West Lincoln, I feel like they have a really sound defense,â€ he said.
West Lincoln, who runs a 4-3 base defense, is coming off an embarrassing 60-6 defeat at the hands of unblemished (in the conference) Lincolnton Friday night, so theyâ€™ll be looking to prove to everybody theyâ€™re a much better defense than that performance would lead you to believe.
When the Mustangs are on the defensive side of the ball, all eyes will be on Paul â€˜The Bruiserâ€™ Chambers and Gene Arp, West Lincolnâ€™s two running backs.
â€œWe better contain those two fellas (Chambers and Arp). Can we stop them? Probably not, we can contain them a little bit and keep them under control hopefully,â€ Byus said, wary of the backsâ€™ talent and physical gifts.
â€œWe certainly know where they line up. Whether we can stop them or not, is a whole nother story,â€ Byus said.
While East Lincoln likely wonâ€™t be able to stop the talented duo, Byus is hoping the likes of Matt Warren, Fred Wingate, Travis Hoshell and Nick Harmon will be able to slow them down.
With the playoffs in sight, one would believe the Mustangs have tunnel vision on achieving that feat, but Byus says not so fast.
â€œI hope, and think, weâ€™ve done a good job as coaches convincing them this is our game this week. Get your eyes off everything else,â€ he said. â€œThis is the only one we can play this week and weâ€™re trying to keep our eyes and our minds off everything else and just play the football game,â€ he added.
Donâ€™t mistake Byusâ€™ comments for not caring about the playoffs, he just feels the Rebels are more than capable of ruining his teamâ€™s chances if they arenâ€™t focused.
â€œI think itâ€™s important for our kids to stay in the moment. Donâ€™t think about the play behind them or the play in front of them, just think about the play thatâ€™s happening right then.â€
by John Mark Brooks