Seniors Zack Gibson and Lance Friday may have played their last high school down, but their legacy of heart and stellar play will never be forgotten.
Gibson and Friday both left their heart on the field Saturday at Kenan Stadium. Friday paced the Wolves with 11 tackles, while Gibson connected on 15-of-33 passing for 226 yards and a touchdown.
Both likely will further their career on college gridirons, but the impact they made in their prep careers canâ€™t be denied.
â€œZackâ€™s been our starting quarterback four years for us, and he puts people in position,â€ Wolves head coach Scott Cloninger said.
During Saturdayâ€™s game, Cloninger called the wrong formation but Gibson, who knows Lincolntonâ€™s playbook like the back of hand, came to the rescue by rectifying the gaffe.
â€œI hope we have another quarterback like Zack Gibson in the future, but I donâ€™t know if we ever will,â€ Cloninger said of the Wolves career leading passer with 5,936 yards.
Gibson finishes as the most prolific passer to ever suit up in Lincoln County as he bested Josh Atkins by nearly 1,000 yards.
â€œIâ€™ve had a great career and great coaching from Coach Cloninger. You couldnâ€™t ask for nothing more your senior year, but you wanted that one little extra win,â€ an emotional Gibson said in the post-game press conference. â€œThat would have put the cherry on top of the pie,â€ he added.
One goal Gibson, who tossed 37 touchdowns on the season, had entering the game was to throw a pass in the state championship. With four seconds left on the clock, albeit not the context he wanted, he achieved yet another goal in his spectacular career.
â€œI wanted to go out on top. I didnâ€™t want to come out and not do anything my last game as a senior in high school football. I wanted to say, â€˜I threw a touchdown pass in the state championship,â€™â€ Gibson said.
As valuable as Gibson was to the offense, Friday was to the defense.
â€œHeâ€™s another one of those guys that has been with us for years. His father is an assistant coach with us, just like Zackâ€™s. Lance is so valuable on defense, I canâ€™t play him on offense like I would like to,â€ Cloninger said of the 5 feet 11 inches, 195-pound talent.
When the Wolvesâ€™ faithful watched any game over the past couple of years, it seemed there was more than one number two out on the field for the black and gold. But there was only one.
That phrase could and does describe both Gibson and Friday. They are each one of a kind. Yes, they will have players fill their position (See Mardriekus Mayfield and Caleb Grooms), but it would be wise for the aforementioned to try to carve out their own niche because, quite simply, this dynamic pair is not replaceable.
Their leadership, their talent and their pursuit of excellence are not easy to come by.
Friday finishes this season with 162 tackles, an average of 10 tackles a game.
And while he may not be big on talking, instead opting for being soft-spoken and of few words, Friday did plenty of talking with his play.
This yearâ€™s edition of the Lincolnton Wolves was a team of overachievers led by two overachievers.
â€œItâ€™s just heart. Our team has heart, our coaches have heart, and we got this far, and nobody thought we would,â€ Gibson said. â€œA couple of plays here and there is what hurt us, and we had a chance to win the ballgame.â€
â€œTheyâ€™re both special. Itâ€™s been a true pleasure just being able to coach both these two young men,â€ Cloninger said.
by John Mark Brooks