The casual fan may not have noticed the 30-second moment, but to people to truly appreciate leadership and the game of footballâ€”Zack Gibson embodied both after back-to-back drops that wouldâ€™ve been touchdowns on the Wolvesâ€™ first possession.
Immediately after returning to the sideline, Gibson gathered together the whole offense with one messageâ€”â€œwe have to fight.â€
â€œI had to get them together and tell them, â€˜We have to keep our heads up and fight. If we want to be a championship team, we have to fight to win,â€ Gibson said.
Fight is exactly what the Wolves have done all season. Although every pundit in the area chose Lincolnton as the perennial favorite in the new Southern Piedmont, nobody except those in the locker room believed they would go to the state championship.
Now that realization in just one game away, as Brevard, the Westâ€™s No. 2 seed, rolls into Lincolnton Memorial Stadium Friday night.
â€œItâ€™s any high school playerâ€™s dream just to get this far. Most seniors donâ€™t even make the playoffs,â€ senior defensive tackle Kenny Reed said in the locker room Friday night, as a big smile spread over his face.
While Lance Friday, Reed and Derek Butler have provided the type of leadership, in their play and verbal, you would expect of seniors, Reed insists itâ€™s going to take all 11 players to continue making the difference on defense.
â€œEverybody needs to step up as a team. One person canâ€™t make the defense. It has to be the whole team with everybody gang tackling,â€ he said.
Butler, a ball-hawking safety, also will give the Wolves an added boost against the Blue Devils with run support.
While he was unable to take Von Ray Harris Field on the defensive side of the ball, he said he expects to play in the Western Regional Final.
â€œCoach (Cloninger) told me he needed me for one play and I just threw it up and C.J. (Wilson) ran under it,â€ Butler said of his 38-yard touchdown strike off a double-pass play.
Fellow senior Jeremy Smith said the recent outbreak of injuries has forced everybody to take a bigger role on defense.
â€œWe have somebody get hurt every week, so we got to step it up. Me and Caleb (Grooms) have been working on that all week,â€ Smith said.
Gibson, who has passed for over 5,000 yards in his spectacular four-year career, believes itâ€™s all about effort and how much a team wants it when you get to this point.
â€œWhatever we do, we have to do it 100-percent and do it correctly,â€ Gibson said.
Part of what makes the this yearâ€™s edition of the Wolves is, undoubtedly their physical gifts, but also the mixture they of the infusion of youth (led by C.J. Wilson and Demery Brewer) and battle-tested seniors.
â€œIt makes us play harder and practice harder. We are going to take it a game at a time and play like itâ€™s a normal game,â€ Wilson said, before interrupting himself. â€œExcept every single player is leaving it all out there on the field,â€ he added.
Lincolnton head coach Scott Cloninger felt the offense had an decent night, but he knew why his team advanced to the Western Regional Final.
â€œThe defense really did save us, but we hit the passes when we had to and they were big plays when we hit them.â€
by John Mark Brooks