Last season, after a 19-0 victory over East Lincoln, West Lincoln dropped the bomb on the Mustangsâ€™ field. Friday, the Mustangs showed they had not forgotten.
With senior night as their backdrop, the Mustangs (5-5, 4-1) received stellar play from Greyson Schram, Ryan Sykes, Nick Harmon and Thomas Huntley en route to a convincing 49-6 win.
â€œIt feels good because they disrespected us last year. They did this thing called â€˜drop the bomb.â€™ We had to drop it tonight and we did,â€ Huntley, who had two of his what is believed to be state leading nine interceptions Friday, said. (Actually, the extent of the Mustangsâ€™ celebration was the Lordâ€™s prayer at the 10-yard line).
Off the heels of a 60-6 loss to Lincolnton, the Rebels (3-7, 3-2) played with a sense of urgency in the first half. Had it not been for a couple of drive-killing turnovers, they couldâ€™ve led.
The second half was a different story. East scored twice in as many minutes at the end of third quarter.
With 3:34 remaining, Schram, East Lincolnâ€™s senior quarterback, capped an eight-play, 71-yard drive with a one-yard keeper. Huntley turned in the key play of the drive, racking up 32 yards on a catch-and-run from Schram.
Sykes put the nail in the coffin with 1:36 left in the third with a four-yard scamper. Schram hooked up with fellow senior Nick Harmon on first and 20, from West Lincolnâ€™s 26-yard line for 22 yards, which set up Sykes.
â€œWeâ€™ve worked on it all week. We knew how they were going to line up against us, so we just tried to run routes we knew our receivers would get open on and they did,â€ Schram, who was 11-for-12 passing for 212 yards with two touchdowns said. â€œMy line was awesome. They gave me so much time back there I enjoyed it,â€ he added.
West Lincoln was led by senior Paul â€˜The Bruiserâ€™ Chambers who racked up 116 yards on 17 carries.
Six turnovers and a solid Mustangsâ€™ defense derailed what wouldâ€™ve been a huge victory in terms of locking up a 2A Playoff berth.
East Lincoln, led by junior Matt Warren, limited West to 164 total yards and zero yards through the air.
â€œSince Iâ€™ve been here, we havenâ€™t made it (the playoffs). Just coming out, playing like we did on defense I just love it man. We deserve it, we worked hard this year,â€ Warren said.
Sykes, who was at full-speed after nursing a knee injury, showed no ill-effects. The 5â€™10â€ dynamo rushed for 173 yards at a 7.2 per carry clip. He found the end zone twice on the night.
Maybe the player himself didnâ€™t see it coming, but one of his teammates did.
â€œI called that before tonight. I told him (Ryan) youâ€™re going to close up on nearly 200 (yards) man. He didnâ€™t believe me, but he did what he had to do,â€ Huntley said.
Harmon, who has emerged as a dangerous threat at tight end, found paydirt for his fifth consecutive game with a 19-yard reception in the first quarter.
The victory puts the Mustangs in the driverâ€™s seat to securing a playoff spot entering their open week. In control of their own destiny, they have to knock off South Iredell (4-5, 2-2) Nov. 4 in Troutman to gain entry.
Head coach Mike Byus felt his team made too many mental mistakes in the first half. He also credited the Rebelsâ€™ coaching staff for having their kids prepared.
â€œWe made the olâ€™ coach nervous in the first half because we kept shooting ourselves in the foot and they kept doing what they needed to do to win this game,â€ Byus said. â€œTheir coaches did a great job of getting their kids prepared and running the things that hurt us. Thatâ€™s why it was still close at the half,â€ he added.
No matter what your definition is of â€˜being in the zone.â€™ Thatâ€™s where Schram was all night, with the exception of one under throw.
â€œItâ€™s pretty big for me. Coming out senior night and getting the job done and 11-for-12, Iâ€™m excited about it. I didnâ€™t know it until just now,â€ he said.
Schramâ€™s favorite target of the night was once again Huntley, who finished with four catches for 73 yards.
While Huntleyâ€™s play has been sensational all season, Byus chose to focus on something elseâ€”his leadership and character after the game.
â€œI love him to death. What a great young man. His athletic ability can speak for itself, I want to speak for his character. Thatâ€™s a good young man right there.â€
As joyous as the Mustangs were, the Rebels were equally heart-broken, knowing their playoff dreams could be slipping away.
â€œTurnovers killed us. Itâ€™s something that hasnâ€™t happened to us all year and the last two ballgames weâ€™ve turned the ball over on several occasions that just happened to be too much to rebound from,â€ West Lincoln head coach Randall Gusler said.
â€œIâ€™m proud of our kids. Theyâ€™re good kids. The season has not progressed the way we wanted it to, but I think weâ€™ll come out fighting next week (senior week) and hopefully get that fourth win,â€ Gusler said. â€œMaybe something good will happen to us.â€
NOTES: Gene Arp scored the Rebelsâ€™ lone touchdown on a four-yard run in the second quarter.
Senior Brent Brown demonstrated excellent speed on a pass-and-run from Schram, that went for a 50-yard score.
Fellow senior Ashaad Rendleman also showed good speed on a 32 run late in the fourth quarter.
Junior defensive lineman Dennis Sprouse routinely found himself in West Lincolnâ€™s backfield and had many tackles for loss.
Mustang kicker Ryan Hultgren hit a 34-yard point-after-attempt.
by John Mark Brooks