East Lincolnâ€™s head coach Mike Byus and the rest of his coaching staff have generated lots of excitement and buzz in just their first year.
Last week, in the first round of the 2A State Playoffs, the Mustangs pulled off whatâ€™s believe to be their first ever home playoff victory and only third overall playoff win.
Perhaps, the biggest achievement of the 2005 Mustangsâ€¦ Byus and company took a group of talent kids, that once played as undisciplined underachievers and turned them into overachievers, as evidenced by winning seven out of their last eight ballgames.
In the second round, the Mustangs face a tough test as they go up against the Forest Hills Yellow Jackets.
Facing such a talented and explosive offense, Byus plans a more ball-control oriented attack in Marshville, the home of country music/gospel superstar Randy Travis.
â€œWe need to play a little more ball control then we have. theyâ€™re pretty explosive. We need to move the chains and be efficient on offense,â€ Byus said. â€œTheyâ€™re pretty fast, so I wouldnâ€™t expect to get many big plays anyway,â€ he added.
The Yellow Jackets run a 4-4 defensive set, but will switch up their look depending on the offensive personnel. For example, if the Mustangs have one tight end, theyâ€™ll roll a linebacker up. If East Lincoln brings in two tight ends, theyâ€™ll roll up two linebackers.
While the defensive looks certainly figure to eclectic, what East Lincolnâ€™s offensive line will see will be consistentâ€”big players and quick off the ball.
â€œThey remind me of South Iredellâ€™s defense, except theyâ€™re bigger. Theyâ€™re really quick, like the Vikings, but only a little bigger,â€ Byus said.
The Yellow Jackets will run a spread offense that will feature three or four wideouts with two backs in the backfield.
Quarterback is their leader and orchestrator of Forest Hillâ€™s quick-strike offense.
â€œHeâ€™s a very accurate passer on top of being fast. Even when weâ€™re rushing him, weâ€™ll have to be careful and stay in our rushing lanes,â€ Byus said.
His go-to receiver Jeremy Tanner, who appears to be 6â€™3,â€ has shown the ability to make plays, but heâ€™s not alone.
â€œHeâ€™s quick, fast and seems to get open. There are two or three others that are right along with him,â€ Byus points out.
Demarious Thomas and Leon Clyburn are both talented ball carriers, regardless of who is carrying the football, Byus makes it clear any and all are capable of finding the end zone from anywhere on the field.
â€œIf you miss one tackle, and not in your lanes, theyâ€™ll take it to the house. These guys can make onee person miss and then youâ€™re in trouble if you donâ€™t have another wave coming.â€
Byus hopes his team can be just as focused entering Fridayâ€™s game as they were before their 27-14 win last week.
â€œTrying to handle a playoff trip thatâ€™s a little longer than a normal game. All of the little things– can we handle them and focus and play,â€ he said. â€œThere was a lot going on last week and those kids focused on playing the game,â€ he added, hopeful theyâ€™ll be ready to play this week as well.
by John Mark Brooks