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Football season begins today

East Lincoln receiver Jesse Earnhardt carries the ball during a recent practice.

Game of the Week: Maiden Blue Devils at Lincolnton

MICHAEL GEBELEIN
Sports Editor

The Lincolnton Wolves open the 2012-2013 football season today with “a true test,” according to head coach Scott Cloninger — the Maiden Blue Devils.
The two teams, separated geographically by less than 10 miles, played each other in a season-opener last year, with Lincolnton taking a 35-10 win. The Wolves then defeated Maiden for a second time in the third round of the playoffs, 34-21.
Lincolnton has won five of the last six meetings, but Maiden returns running back Jose Campos, who made an impact for the Blue Devils on offense last year, and the strong defensive skills of brothers Dakota and Dylan Painter.
Cloninger said any game between the two teams brings a special atmosphere to the stadium.
“It’s a great start to the season,” he said. “It’s our next door neighbor. It’s been a huge rivalry for years and years. There’s a lot of respect between each team and coaching staff, and I think a good rivalry game to start the season is exactly what the community wants.”
The Wolves are still holding several position battles, including the starting quarterback spot, up until today. Ketawn Ingram and Chavis Russell are both hoping to line up under center, and Cloninger said the competition between the two was exactly what he wanted. Maiden also worked out two quarterbacks, Jake McRee and Kaleb Ikard, in its scrimmages.
The Lincolnton coaching staff viewed film from Maiden’s scrimmage with Cherryville, and Cloninger said he expects an offensive attack with a good balance between passing and running the football. Maiden has a size advantage, and the Wolves are still working out some of the wrinkles that result from starting young players.
“We’re still in learning mode,” Cloninger said. “We’re having a lot of mental breakdowns in practice, more than physical breakdowns. But that’s youthfulness in a team. When you’re as young and inexperienced as we are you’re going to make mental mistakes. We’ll get them ironed out by Friday. We understand that there will be some first-game mistakes, but as the season goes on we’ll learn about the offense and defense and I think we’ll be better off.”
Newton-Conover at East Lincoln
The Newton-Conover Red Devils return to East Lincoln High School for the first game of the season for the second year in a row. The teams have played each other in the season opener in each of the last five seasons, with Newton-Conover winning four of the games. East Lincoln defeated Newton-Conover to open the season last year.
East Lincoln head coach Mike Byus said he has seen the Newton-Conover defense work out of a 4-3 and a 5-2 base on defense on film, and that they run some triple option offense. He said he was waiting until the two teams got on the field to make an estimation of the Red Devils’ personnel.
“You can’t tell much about personnel from film,” he said. “We’ll prepare for the schemes that we’ve seen and we’ll get in the game and make adjustments according to what they have and how strong they are in some spots.”
Marquis Pharr and Domonique Smith are still the top two players vying for a spot at running back for the Mustangs. Byus said the Mustangs are lacking the speed they had at running back last year, but are “getting better every day.”
East Lincoln plans to score early, and maintain a good pace throughout the game.
“We need to get off early,” Byus said. “We need to be prepared to play early and play well early.”
Chase at West Lincoln
The West Lincoln Rebels open the season against a team with a remarkably similar offense to its own — the Chase Trojans,
The Trojans run a double wing offense with a focus on the fullback, much like the Rebels. West Lincoln head coach Tom Sain said the Rebels have prepared defenses aimed at stopping the run.
“Hopefully our defense will be in the right position,” he said. “We have a couple of different defenses ready to stop the run, and it will be a good chance for the defense to see that style of football.”
The Rebels’ familiarity with the Trojans’ offense also poses a problem for West Lincoln’s offense.
“We know they’re going to try to stop the run,” Sain said. “They tried to stop the run against us last year. We know that they’re going to give us some different looks on defense, but we haven’t seen anything other than the 4-3.”
The Trojans also make sparing use of the pass, but Sain said their quarterback was “mobile in the pocket” and could throw the ball when he had to, thanks to Chase’s skilled athlete at receiver.
Sain said one of the team’s main focuses was learning from the mistakes it made during scrimmages.
“We know we have to minimize mistakes, because they’re going to capitalize on anything we do wrong,” he said. “Mistakes will happen in the first game, but we’re going to have to overcome that. We don’t want a lot of adversity in the first game.”
Sain also said the Rebels have been looking forward to the start of this season since the end of last year’s games.
“They’re ready to go, they’re hungry,” he said. “They’ve been hungry since the last season.”
Fred T. Foard at North Lincoln
The North Lincoln Knights open what they hope will be a new era of success today against the Fred T. Foard Tigers. The teams met for the first time in last year’s season opener, with the Tigers winning 25-6.
Foard runs what first-year North Lincoln head coach David Maness described as a Georgia Tech style flexbone offense, with a fair amount of option play. Their offense focuses on the quarterback and fullback, but they have the capability to move the ball outside with fast wingbacks.
Maness said his team was focused on protecting the football and avoiding mistakes in today’s game.
“Season openers are usually not won, they’re lost,” he said. “The team that is able to take care of the football and have the fewest mental breakdowns will have a big advantage.”
He said he hoped his team could win the turnover battle, as turnovers are “a factor in triple option teams.”
“So far, in scrimmages, we haven’t thrown an interception, and we’ve lost one fumble,” he said. “If we can win the turnover battle, it could be a big help to us. We have to value the football.”
The North Lincoln defense caused trouble for itself by giving up big plays during scrimmages. Maness said he plans to make teams take the “long, hard road,” rather than make big gains on single plays.
“The more times they snap it the better chance they have of making a mistake,” he said.

Lincolnton defensive lineman Darian Roseboro works out during a recent practice.

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