The football mantra of â€œOffense sells tickets, defense wins championshipsâ€ holds true in most cases.
But Lincolnton head coach Scott Cloninger believes Fridayâ€™s Western Regional Final will come down to one thing â€“ who wins the battle at the line of scrimmage.
â€œMy 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,â€ Cloninger said.
All season, the Wolvesâ€™ 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.
â€œThey play with a lot of effort and heart. Every week theyâ€™ve gone up against bigger and stronger people and a lot of weeks theyâ€™ve won them,â€ Cloninger said. â€œYou canâ€™t measure heart.â€
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 unitâ€™s most outspoken leader.
â€œHeâ€™s quick off the ball and probably the toughest one to block. Heâ€™s had some huge games dating back to the South Point game,â€ Cloninger said.
Rojas, who wasnâ€™t even expected to play this season due to a back injury, has not only played, but has been an integral part of the lineâ€™s success.
â€œHe battled back and does a great job for us. Heâ€™s always going up against bigger people,â€ 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.
â€œCoach Gibson built that defensive line around Mikey because of his quickness and ability,â€ 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.
â€œHe probably had as good of a night against Owen as anybody,â€ 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.
â€œThose two guys can really put the pressure on the quarterback,â€ Cloninger said.
Fellow junior Justin Farley has also seen time at defensive tackle as part of the unitâ€™s rotation and has raised eyebrows with his quickness.
â€œHe can make things happen on the defensive line with his speed,â€ Cloninger said.
With five players leaving via graduation, Mullen and Farley will be looked to as leaders next year.
â€œWeâ€™ll have to build that defensive line around Mullen, so weâ€™re expecting Mullen to put on some weight over the off-season,â€ Cloninger said.
by John Mark Brooks