Lincolnton revived an old tradition Saturday night, and for a good reason.
The Wolves had such a splendid season in football that the school held a banquet to celebrate the team`s runner-up finish in the 2A playoffs and to honor the individual members.
Once an annual event at Lincolnton, the football banquet fell out of vogue in the early 1980s when the school opted for an all-sports banquet in the spring.
A good crowd composed of players, coaches, fans and parents gathered in the cafeteria to recognize a team that set a school record for wins in a season with 14.
Head coach Scott Cloninger recapped the Wolves` 16-game run to the state 2A championship game, recognized each individual player and closed with the presentation of team awards.
As expected, the top individual awards went to a pair of seniors. Linebacker Lance Friday was named defensive most valuable player, and quarterback Zack Gibson won the overall MVP award.
Other award winners were: linebacker Caleb Grooms, Gold Helmet award; defensive back Derek Butler, Game Ball award; receiver Demery Brewer, offensive coach`s award; defensive back Taraves Jefferies, defensive coach`s award; all-purpose player Demory Williams, Spark Plug award; James Allen, offensive lineman award; and Roger Rojas, defensive lineman award.
The defensive MVP award was the latest honor for Friday, who last month was named the Gaston Gazette`s defensive player of the year.
“Lance is a player who leads by example,” said Cloninger. “We couldn`t do what we have done without this young man here.”
Gibson was an obvious choice for team MVP. The Gazette`s offensive player of the year, Gibson shattered all of the passing records in Lincoln County and set a standard which may be difficult to surpass.
“What Zack did will be hard to repeat,” Cloninger said of the four-year starter who threw 37 touchdown passes in 16 games. “He`s a great athlete. He will be truly missed.”
In his comments on the 13-7 loss to Clinton in Chapel Hill, Cloninger said the banquet was an occasion “for celebration, not a pity thing.”
Cloninger commended his players on the manner in which they conducted themselves during the game and afterwards.
“You played until the last play. Someone said that we didn`t lose the game, we ran out of time. This group did not quit. They represented Lincolnton and themselves very well,” Cloninger said.
As Cloninger introduced the team members one by one, it was obvious that the Wolves are a team with a bright future, despite the loss of a stellar senior class.
At least eight starters return on offense, including running back C.J. Wilson, who had more than 2,300 combined passing receiving and rushing yards. This year`s sophomore class is regarded as one of the best at Lincolnton in recent memory.
The key areas of concern going into 2006 are the quarterback position and the defense, which suffers some heavy losses, especially on the interior line.
However, even at quarterback, the Wolves have a good athlete waiting in the wings in sophomore Mardriekus Mayfield.
As the banquet came to an end, Cloninger was already thinking ahead.
“It`s time to get back to work,” he told his players. “Let`s get in the weight room and start getting ready.”
by Mike Powell