Facing the No. 8 team in the state Shelby is never easy, but the North Lincoln Knights find themselves in an even more precarious situation this week.
The No. 5 seed Golden Lions are fresh off the heels of a 23-21 loss at the hands of Cleveland County foe East Rutherford. No. 12 North Lincoln, in the same boat, lost to county foe Lincolnton 42-10.
Against a team that boasts some very explosive playmakers, the best defense is keeping their offense off the field. North Lincoln head coach Matt Beam is hoping for just that in Friday nightâ€™s away game.
â€œItâ€™s going to take ball-control to slow them down. I really think we can find some success passing against them,â€ he said. â€œFrom what I see over the past couple of weeks, Shelby is more equipped to stop the run than to stop the pass,â€ he added.
Fans wondering why junior quarterback Trent â€˜Aceâ€™ Hopkins didnâ€™t run the ball much (only 12 carries), can not expect the same thing this week, as heâ€™s sure to see the ball plenty.
â€œI wanted him to be fresh (for the playoffs) and I knew they were spying him a little bit. Plus, we got into a situation where we were down, so we had to use his arm more than his legs,â€ Beam explained.
Shelby, which runs a 4-3 defense, is known for their physical nature and aggression. A week after the Knights struggled with pass protection and catching the football, Beam has harped on the importance of both this week.
â€œWe talked about how itâ€™s the little things have to be taken care ofâ€”know what blocking calls we have, concentrating catching the ball and hanging onto the ball. The tiny things that people take for granted a lot of times is what hurt us against Lincolnton.â€
The Lions, who run a wing with a slot receiver, have playmakers all over the field. Senior quarterback Darryl Montgomery is athletic, fast and has a cannon for an arm.
But thatâ€™s just one threat. Shelbyâ€™s backfield boasts the truest version of thunder & lightning one will see in high school in 6â€™2â€ 236 pound Arsenio Parks and Carolina-signee Tavorris Jolly at 5â€™11â€ 190.
Jolly has missed two games due to a concussion, but will be close to full strength versus the Knights.
â€œThunder and lightning. Parks runs it hard in between the tackles and Jolly is the quick one that gets outside and gets into your secondary,â€ Beam said.
Fellow senior Antonio Odum, No. 82, is Shelbyâ€™s go-to receiver as he can turn a five-yard route into a 50-yard explosion.
â€œIf he gets into your secondary, heâ€™ll take it the distance,â€ Beam said.
Against the Golden Lions, opponents know whatâ€™s coming. Thatâ€™s not the questionâ€”the question is, can they stop it?
â€œYouâ€™re going to see belly, buck-sweep and trap. They run all three very well,â€ Beam said. â€œA lot of times they beat you because theyâ€™re better athletes,â€ he added.
Beam hopes his team will be able to maintain their poise versus one of the better programs in the state.
â€œDealing with the pressure of playing a perennial powerhouse. Shelby and Lincolnton are programs people respect throughout the state,â€ Beam said.
â€œWe want to get to that level where weâ€™re not just making the playoffs but being a factor. Thatâ€™s where we aim to get.â€
by John Mark Brooks