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Senior D-Line standing their ground

The football mantra of “Offense sells tickets, defense wins championships” holds true in most cases.
But Lincolnton head coach Scott Cloninger believes Friday’s Western Regional Final will come down to one thing – who wins the battle at the line of scrimmage.
“My opinion is the game will be won on the line of scrimmage. Whoever is able to control the line of scrimmage will come away with the win,” Cloninger said.
All season, the Wolves’ defensive front has used heart and effort to make up for their lack of size. Against St. Stephens, South Point and Owen, the front four came up big and outplayed bigger lines.
The reason why? Heart.
“They play with a lot of effort and heart. Every week they’ve gone up against bigger and stronger people and a lot of weeks they’ve won them,” Cloninger said. “You can’t measure heart.”
This week will be no different as the senior-laden group consisting of: Kenny Reed (5 feet 11 inches 200), Roger Rojas (6 feet 2 inches, 235), Mikey Bracey (5 feet 9 inches, 190) and James Hargrove (5 feet 9, 200) will have their hands full against a big Brevard offensive line, led by Chad Harris (6 feet 4 inches, 310).
Reed is third on the team in tackles with 92 and is the unit’s most outspoken leader.
“He’s quick off the ball and probably the toughest one to block. He’s had some huge games dating back to the South Point game,” Cloninger said.
Rojas, who wasn’t even expected to play this season due to a back injury, has not only played, but has been an integral part of the line’s success.
“He battled back and does a great job for us. He’s always going up against bigger people,” Cloninger said.
Defensive coordinator Ledford Gibson had special plans for Mikey Bracey, one of two speed rushers on the team, entering the season. Bracey has not disappointed.
“Coach Gibson built that defensive line around Mikey because of his quickness and ability,” Cloninger said.
The fourth spot on the defensive front has been manned by junior defensive end Drew Mullen (6 feet 2 inches, 180) for the majority of the season, but James Hargrove (5 feet 9 inches 200) received the starting nod against Owen largely due to the fact he gives the Wolves more size and run-stopping ability.
“He probably had as good of a night against Owen as anybody,” Cloninger said.
The aforementioned Mullen and Justin Mayfield (6 feet, 190) have given Lincolnton a pair of talented speed rushers, whose primary job is to rush throws and get sacks.
“Those two guys can really put the pressure on the quarterback,” Cloninger said.
Fellow junior Justin Farley has also seen time at defensive tackle as part of the unit’s rotation and has raised eyebrows with his quickness.
“He can make things happen on the defensive line with his speed,” Cloninger said.
With five players leaving via graduation, Mullen and Farley will be looked to as leaders next year.
“We’ll have to build that defensive line around Mullen, so we’re expecting Mullen to put on some weight over the off-season,” Cloninger said.
by John Mark Brooks

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