Special to LTN
OLIN — West Lincoln beat the North Iredell Raiders 24-16 on Friday in the Rebels’ last nonconference matchup of the year. After each teams opening possessions North Iredell opened scoring and put together a short scoring drive that was set up by their defense when they picked off a West Lincoln pass attempt.
The drive was aided by two West Lincoln penalties on the same play and set North Iredell up from the 14-yard line and Nick Malavet crossed the goal line to take an early lead. When the snap on the extra point try was bad North Iredell’s Jacob Queen ran the extra point in to stake the Raiders to an 8-0 lead.
The West Lincoln offense did not fare any better on its next possession when they lost a fumble on their second play, giving North Iredell great field position again.
The Raiders again took advantage as Malavet found the end zone and the two point conversion gave North Iredell an early 16-0 lead.
“When turnovers happen and you put yourself in an early hole its tough to overcome,” West Lincoln head coach Tom Sain said about his team’s auspicious start.
On the next Rebel possession the offense got in gear and put together an eight-play drive, capped off by a Daniel Davila 18-yard touchdown run and an Ivan Calvillo extra point brought West Lincoln back in the game.
Davila was injured on the play and was unable to return to the game. On the next North Iredell possession, the Rebel defense was ready for the challenge and forced them to punt away the ball. “Our kids just kept playing hard and our coaches were able to make the adjustments needed to slow them down and allow us to get back in the game,” Sain said.
West Lincoln had another chance to get on the scoreboard in the second quarter and put together another drive, making its way to the North Iredell 15-yard line, but turned the ball over on downs when a fourth down conversion attempt came up short by just inches.
West Lincoln’s Jay Harmon recovered a North Iredell fumble just one play later and set up the Rebels for their next score. After stalling on the drive, Calvillo hit a 30-yard field goal to make the score 16-10 with 1:16 left in the half. West Lincoln’s Clay Alguire turned away the last-chance effort of North Iredell when he picked off a pass as time expired to keep the Rebels within 6 points at half time.
West Lincoln received the ball to open the second half but was unable to move the ball and had to punt it away to North Iredell. The Rebel defense was up to the task and on third-and-6 West Lincoln’s Derrick Braun picked off a Jacob Queeen pass, setting up the Rebels at their own 48-yard line. The West Lincoln offense was again plagued by the turnover bug when a third-down pass was picked off. Again the West Lincoln defense answered the call, forcing another three-and-out.
The Rebels turned to Alguire and Harmon to carry the load, and Alguire took a toss and went 10 yards to tie the game. The Calvillo kick gave the Rebels the lead for the first time at the 2:51 mark of the third quarter.
After forcing another three-and-out the Rebel offense took over and put together a five-play, 35-yard drive capped by a Tracey Messer 10-yard run to extend the Rebel lead to 24-16 at the 9:41 mark of the fourth quarter.
North Iredell then put together a seven-play, 46-yard drive, placing them at the West Lincoln 11-yard line. West Lincoln’s Tyler Clinton sacked the North Iredell quarterback, forcing a fumble that was recovered by West Lincoln’s Andres Gonzalez to preserve the lead.
West Lincoln took over with 6:24 to play in the game and put together a 13-play drive, leaning on the tough inside running of Harmon (21 for 79 yards), which ate up the rest of the game clock.
The West Lincoln defense only allowed 77 yards and forced four turnovers after the second touchdown early in the first quarter.
“That’s a good win to get,” Sain said. “It is not often you come back from 16 points down at any level. Our kids played hard and our coaches worked hard and I am proud of the results.”