Special to LTN
BELMONT — Even last year against South Point on its home field, a talented, senior-driven Lincolnton squad that fell in the 2A state championship game by just three points lost to the Red Raiders by two touchdowns.
With a young, inexperienced squad making the trip to Belmont on Friday night, Lincolnton coach Scott Cloninger knew it would take a perfect game — and then some — to match up with 3A South Point.
For almost a quarter, Lincolnton was close to perfect, but the margin for error was too fine over four quarters as South Point rattled off the game’s final 49 points en route to a 49-8 victory.
“We played well in the first half,” Cloninger said. “I was real proud of them. We knew we were in for an uphill battle, but it snowballed there a little bit in the second half.”
It could have gotten worse earlier. On the game’s first play from scrimmage, Lincolnton quarterback Chavis Russell turned his right ankle. He returned for several plays early in the second quarter, but the coaches determined junior Ketawn Ingram was their best option the rest of the game.
Ingram entered on the game’s second play and led the Wolves on a methodical 15-play drive that covered 52 yards, culminating with a Willie Cobb 6-yard scoring run. After Cobb added the two-point conversion, the Wolves led 8-0 and had eaten up nearly eight minutes off the clock.
The teams traded punts and South Point sophomore quarterback Jaquan Brooks, coming off a 200-yard rushing performance in his first varsity start a week ago, sprinted 63 yards for a touchdown with 42.2 seconds left in the opening quarter. The two-point conversion evened the score, 8-8.
The Red Raiders (2-0) pulled ahead on a Tyler Bray 3-yard run with 3:33 left in the half, but Lincolnton’s Justice Whitesides blocked the extra point to keep the South Point lead to 14-8 and Cobb’s interception in the half’s final minute kept the Wolves within six points at the half.
“That’s our game. That’s what our gameplan has got to be,” Cloninger said. “We’re not going to score from 80 yards out, 10 yards out, we’re going to have to pound it slow, four yards, run the clock. The first drive was perfect. I couldn’t have asked for anything better out of our team. I was very proud of our kids to be within 14-8 at halftime.”
But Lincolnton played on its heels much of the second half. South Point’s first possession of the second half started on its own 49 and its final five started in Wolves’ territory at the 25, 28, 29, 38 and 30 — and five of those six drives ended in scores.
“When you give a great team like South Point a short field, that score is going to happen,” Cloninger said.
Meanwhile, Lincolnton gained just 43 second-half yards, fumbled the ball away once and twice had poor center-punter exchanges that gave South Point the ball deep in Lincolnton territory.
Lincolnton (1-1) managed 114 yards on the ground, led by Darian Roseboro, who pounded his way to 50 yards on 12 carries.
Cloninger said the Wolves have to put the loss against the Red Raiders behind them with the Southern Piedmont conference opener Friday at Lake Norman Charter.
“The game of the year coming up — first conference game,” Cloninger said. “I told them I only have one thing to ask you. You’ve got two choices — you can work and get better or you can quit. It’s your choice. It’s up to you. I know what the coaches are going to do, they’re going to work their tails off this weekend and get ready next week. It’s a terrible feeling. We haven’t been beaten like this in … I don’t know how long. We will survive. These young people are OK and we’ll be OK.”
Cloninger said Russell’s status is questionable for Friday’s game.
The junior varsity Wolves lost to South Point on Thursday. Jordon Easter and Tyshawn Smith both scored touchdowns for Lincolnton.