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Wolves 2A Western Regional champs

The scene was reminiscent of the last two times the Lincolnton Wolves advanced to the state championship game.
Players jumped up and down, yelled, ‘We going to the ship,’ and hugged family and friends over the fence after a 29-26 victory over Brevard in the Western Regional Championship Friday night at Lincolnton Memorial Stadium.
Trailing 26-22 with 2:55 left, the Wolves’ dreams of a state championship were for all intents and purposes shattered. At least, that’s how things seemed, as Brevard dominated the second half.
Record-breaking quarterback Zack Gibson took the snap from center, wheeled and quickly found phenom sophomore running back C.J. Wilson at his own 24-yard line. Wilson did the rest, defying logic and inspiring the imagination with a breathtaking 76-yard touchdown down the home sideline.
Upon catching the ball, a Brevard defender had Wilson in his clutches. Wilson stiff armed, Shane Faw threw a pivotal block, Wilson put his hand on the ground did a spin move, got another block from Faw and he was gone.
“When I caught it, the first thing on my mind was touchdown. I put my hand down and stayed on my feet. He let me go and I knew that was a mistake,” Wilson said. “I saw the open field and I just did what I do — ran fast and got away from the people that were chasing me,” he added, of the play that will forever stay etched in the minds of all Lincolnton fans.
All that stood in the Wolves’ way of a return trip to Chapel Hill was one defensive stop and 2:33. They responded.
On the second play of the Blue Devils’ final drive, Kurt Frisbee connected with Adam Conley for a 39-yard pass completion. Two straight runs and an incomplete pass set up a fourth and six from Lincolnton’s 35-yard line.
Fittingly, defensive leader Lance Friday delivered the defensive play of the game, knocking down the Frisbee pass, giving the ball back to Gibson and company.
“We were in a zone coverage and I just dropped back and tried to read the quarterback. I knew he was going to throw it short. I put my hands up to try to intercept it,” Friday said. “I didn’t intercept it. I just tipped it, but that’s good enough for me.”
Lincolnton’s offense, and more pointedly, Wilson, did the rest, picking up a first down on fourth and five from their own 40 yard line. The play allowed them to run out the clock and made them Western Regional champions.
“I couldn’t ask for more out of the team I have. They’re a great team. When we were down, we don’t let anything get ahead of us, we keep our head up and do our best to pull out a win for the team,” an ecstatic Wilson said after the hard-fought victory.
The Wolves took a 22-6 lead into the half, only to see Brevard respond with 20 unanswered points before the clinching score.
With 4:05 remaining in the third quarter, the Blue Devils’ Frisbee hit his go-to receiver Conley for a perfectly-thrown 31-yard touchdown, whittling the lead to 22-10.
Two Lincolnton possessions later, 6-foot-4-inch defensive tackle Chad Harris plucked a pressured Gibson throw out of the air and demonstrated surprising speed for an 18-yard touchdown, cutting the advantage to 22-19.
On Brevard’s second possession of the final quarter, Jonathan Elliot punched it in from four yards out to give the Blue Devils their first lead of the contest, 26-22 with 2:55 left.
A happy, but more so relieved, Wolves’ head coach Scott Cloninger was impressed by the heart Brevard showed, but he was not surprised.
“The films I saw, they drove down the field and beat Shelby with two minutes to go. They drive down the field against Maiden at the end of the game and beat Maiden, so I knew they were going to play and give us their best effort at the end of the game and they did,” Cloninger said. “The close games they won, I bet you they did on the last drive of the game.”
Cloninger felt the Blue Devils outplayed them the whole second half until Wilson’s mind-boggling play.
“Third quarter they just outplayed us. They were killing us. Fourth quarter they had control of the game,” he said.
“I really think we should’ve been up more than we were at halftime but I’m just glad we were able to hit the bubble screen at the end of the game and hit a big home run.”
Wilson paced Lincolnton with 103 rushing yards and also led his team with 104 yards receiving. Demery Brewer neared the 100-yard mark with 93 yards on two receptions.
Elliot had a game-high 128 yards on 22 carries for the Blue Devils.
Brevard’s Adam Conley, the team’s leading receiver on the season, had three catches for 89 yards.
Frisbee was seven-for-27 passing for 125 yards, while Gibson overcame two interceptions to finish with 237 yards passing on eight-of-18 accuracy.
by John Mark Brooks

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