Shelby just had too much speed.
North Lincoln kept it close, trailing only 14-7, at the end of the first quarter but a 28-point explosion by the Golden Lions propelled them to a 49-28 victory and into the second round.
â€œThey had a lot of speed. We played really good in spots. The kids played hard. We just had some turnovers that hurt us that they directly scored off,â€ Knightsâ€™ head coach Matt Beam said.
One of those bright spots was the spectacular play of promising sophomore tight end David Ward, who made a one-handed snag on a ball thrown behind him.
â€œThat was the best high school catch Iâ€™ve ever seen. I turned around because I thought it was incomplete and he reached back and caught it. I couldnâ€™t believe it,â€ Beam said, of Wardâ€™s 12-yard scoring catch.
While the Knights focused on stopping future Tar Heel Tavorris Jolly, it was sophomore Preston Roseboro that was the difference-maker as he gained 172 yards on just nine carries.
â€œHe played good. We knew we would try to slow Jolly and Parks down and then the other one (Roseboro) hurt us. He killed us,â€ Beam said.
Nineteen seniors played their last game of their high school career for the Knights, but no one ended on a better note than Devin Borders.
After an up-and-down, injury-plagued season, Borders reeled in five passes for 84 yards, including a 51-yard touchdown pass from junior Trent â€˜Aceâ€™ Hopkins in the first quarter.
â€œI was proud he (Devin) played well. He is his own worst enemy, he gets down on himself. Iâ€™m glad he finished his career on a high note,â€ Beam said.
Among those not returning for North Lincoln are: Brandon Mull, Justin Mintun, Phillip Schronce, Bradley Smith, Scottie Wallace, Josh Wilkins and Pablo Arguelles. Beam knows it wonâ€™t be an easy task after losing so many seniors, but heâ€™s also confident he has a good group coming back.
â€œI have a lot of work to do to replace them, but we have a good nucleus coming back,â€ he said.
Looking ahead to next season, the Knights will not return any offensive linemen but will have many members of the conference champion JV team moving up. On the defensive side of the ball, seven starters return, including Kyle Wilkinson, who played nothing but defense this year in sensational fashion. Heâ€™s expected to play on both sides of the ball next season.
Hopkins, who ended the season with 17 rushing touchdowns and 17 passing touchdowns, was 16-of-37 for 220 yards and three touchdowns. He also had 14 carries for 62 yards.
â€œHe (Trent) carried us all year long. He took every single snap from center, he played hard and fought every play,â€ Beam said.
Offensively, Ward and sophomore receiver Montreal Wilson will replace Borders and Kyle Baker as Hopkins go-to receivers. Wilson reeled in five catches for 56 yards, including a two-yard touchdown reception.
â€œHeâ€™s (Montreal) got to get in the weight room, but he can lead the league in receiving if he wants to, but heâ€™s got to want to do it,â€ Beam said.
No. 4 seed Shelby will square off against East Henderson in a second round away game.
â€œWhen it comes down to it, anybody can beat anybody from here on out. With that speed they have, they certainly can beat anybody,â€ Beam said of the Golden Lions.
Beam is hoping to use how well his team played against the Golden Lions as a cornerstone to build his program on.
â€œI hate itâ€™s over and my kids are upset itâ€™s over. I think how well we played against Shelby could be a turning point.â€
by John Mark Brooks