LINCOLNTON Ââ€” The Lincolnton Wolves moved to 3-0 in the Southern Piedmont 1A/2A Conference on Friday after a 55-35 win over the East Lincoln Mustangs.
Senior Lincolnton (6-1, 3-0) quarterback Patrick Rendleman, a former East Lincoln star in his first season with the Wolves, ran for five touchdowns and threw for 80 yards in the win.
While Rendleman finished the majority of Lincolntonâ€™s scoring drives, senior fullback Dee Littlejohn powered his way down field and amassed 210 rushing yards, including a 6-yard touchdown with four minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Lincolnton opened up early in the first quarter after an 11-yard touchdown by Rendleman, but the Mustangs responded on the ensuing drive with an 11-yard touchdown run of their own by senior running back Marcus McDowell. Senior kicker Brett Bowen missed the extra point for East Lincoln (3-4, 1-2), and the one-point deficit was the closest the Mustangs would come to the Wolves in the game.
McDowell ran for 124 yards and one touchdown against Lincolnton, his least-productive offensive game of the season so far. He is averaging 165 yards and three touchdowns per game.
Lincolnton produced nearly 500 yards of offense in the game, with 415 yards coming from four rushers.
â€œWeâ€™ve got some big, strong running backs,â€ Lincolnton head coach Scott Cloninger said.
â€œWe have a bunch of weapons inside and outside. I didnâ€™t throw the ball nearly as much as we have before, but I just wanted to run the football and run the clock.â€
Lincolnton scored twice in the second quarter, first on an 8-yard run by Rendleman, followed by a 4-yard run from senior running back Michael Cunningham on the subsequent drive.
East Lincoln senior running back Charlie Goss picked up a 2-yard touchdown for the Mustangs in the second quarter, but was stopped on the two-point conversion attempt by Lincolntonâ€™s Jaden Angle. The Wolves held East Lincoln to a 21-yard field goal by Bowen headed into the half.
Young connected with his receivers twice in the third quarter for touchdowns, once on a 34-yard pass to Jesse Earnhardt, followed by a 72-yard pass to Antwaine McLain. McLain passed the 500-yard receiving mark for the season with his 39-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter.
The Mustangs have used a balanced run-pass attack on offense so far this season, but after halftime the scoring burden fell on the arm of junior quarterback Garrett Young.
Young threw for a season-high 312 yards on 20 completions, and logged three passing touchdowns in the second half. East Lincoln picked up 9 yards of rushing offense in the second half, due to four tackles in the backfield by the Lincolnton defense.
Young was sacked four times in the game, for a total loss of 23 yards, twice by Lincolnton senior defensive lineman Austin Duncan, once by freshman defensive tackle Darian Roseboro and once more on a combined tackle by Roseboro and senior Shane Campbell.
Cloninger said he liked what he saw from his offense, but that having a defense give up 35 points, matching the most points Lincolnton has allowed all season, was a cause for concern.
â€œIâ€™m not happy, and the defensive coaches are not happy, with our defensive performance tonight,â€ he said.
â€œYou canâ€™t give up 35 points. If we keep doing that weâ€™ll be making a short run in the playoffs. I know we can get better. We will get better. But I think East Lincoln just confused us a little bit.â€
Lincolnton travels to Cherryville (3-4, 2-1 SPC) for a conference game on Friday.
East Lincoln hosts West Lincoln (3-4, 2-1 SPC) in the Mustangsâ€™ homecoming game on Friday.
MICHAEL GEBELEIN, Sports Writer