The celebration lasted throughout the weekend, then it was back to work for the Lincolnton Wolves who refuse to get complacent entering their second round match-up versus Red Springs.
A season ago, the Wolves ended the Red Devilsâ€™ season with a 28-6 away win. Theyâ€™re expecting Red Springsâ€™ best shot. After all, no team wants to have their season ended by the same team in back-to-back years.
The Wolves are coming off a convincing 48-20 first round victory over Mountain Heritage. No one was more impressive than C.J. Wilson, a sophomore running back, who has emerged as a key contributor on what Lincolnton hopes will be a state championship team.
â€œWe have to continue to be pretty equal with the run and the pass. You canâ€™t let somebody zero in on your run game or let them take away your pass game,â€ head coach Scott Cloninger said about Fridayâ€™s game against the Red Devils.
Wilson, who has 1,042 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns and 649 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns, will once again be vital to the Wolvesâ€™ success.
â€œHeâ€™s now a junior. Heâ€™s gone through his sophomore season. Heâ€™s done everything weâ€™ve asked him to and heâ€™s improved leaps and bounds,â€ Cloninger said. â€œWeâ€™re looking forward to bigger and better things from him,â€ he added, of Wilson, who became the first player since Anwar â€˜Gooâ€™ Wyatt to surpass the century mark in both receiving and rushing in the same game.
While Wilson deserves the opponentsâ€™ watchful eye, they canâ€™t forget about Zack â€˜Mr. Consistentâ€™ Gibson, who has thrown for 2,287 yards and 30 touchdowns on the season.
â€œWe have to continue to mix in the run and pass,â€ Cloninger said.
Red Springs will run a 4-4 defense and is known for its ability to get to the football and make plays, a fact not missed by Cloninger.
â€œTheyâ€™re a very, very quick team. Theyâ€™re not a big defensive team. Theyâ€™re just very quick to the ball,â€ he said.
Lincolntonâ€™s offensive lineâ€™s biggest task will be blocking 6-foot-4-inch, 285-pound junior defensive tackle Nick Locklear.
Friday nightâ€™s game could very easily turn into an old fashioned western shootout as the Red Devils enter the second round averaging 35 points a game out of their Wing-T attack.
Making it all go will be senior quarterback, 6-foot-1-inch, 170-pound David Campbell (No. 11).
â€œTheyâ€™re very similar to Shelbyâ€™s Wing-T, because theyâ€™re just fast, fast, fast. Theyâ€™ve got a quarterback who has a lot of talent and runs very well,â€ Cloninger said.
Perhaps, the biggest playmaker for the Red Devils is 5-foot-10-inch, 170-pound senior Neil Smith (No. 4), who plays running back and defensive back.
â€œIf he (Smith) gets in the secondary, you wonâ€™t catch him. Theyâ€™re the best team weâ€™ve faced since Shelby,â€ Cloninger said.
Another threat is senior fullback Chris Isaac (5-foot-10-inches, 170 pounds), who does a masterful job running the trap.
â€œThatâ€™s (their explosive potential) a concern for us. Theyâ€™ve got multiple offensive weapons. It could the last team with the ball wins the ball game,â€ Cloninger said.
It will be up to Lance â€˜Thank God Itâ€™sâ€™ Friday and Caleb Grooms, who lead the team in tackles with 118 and 91 respectively, to slow down Smith and company.
Cloninger knows Red Springs hasnâ€™t forgotten about last yearâ€™s 28-6 loss, so heâ€™s prepared his team to have extra focus entering Fridayâ€™s showdown at Lincolnton Memorial Stadium.
â€œWe beat them. They were a higher seed. Now, theyâ€™re coming to our place and theyâ€™re a better football team than they were last year,â€ Cloninger said.
â€œThere are little things weâ€™ve learned about each other, and how well each one of us adapts to it will decide the ball game.â€
by John Mark Brooks