Game of the Week: Lincolnton Wolves (2-4, 1-1 SPC) at East Lincoln Mustangs (6-0, 2-0 SPC)
The Lincolnton Wolves know they have another huge test this week when they travel to face the undefeated East Lincoln Mustangs.
Lincolnton has come out on top in the majority of the regular-season meetings between the teams, who have been playing since 1974, in the last 10 seasons. The Wolves boast a 7-3 regular-season record against the Mustangs since the 2002 season, outscoring East Lincoln 278-240. East Lincoln has had better luck against Lincolnton in the last four seasons. The teams have split 2-2, with the Mustangs winning back-to-back in 2008 and 2009.
“It’s a big game,” Lincolnton head coach Scott Cloninger said. “East Lincoln has been very competitive for the last seven or eight years and right now it’s the biggest county rivalry we have. We’re going to have to play an almost perfect game to have an opportunity to beat them.”
The Mustangs have been an offensive behemoth through the first six weeks of the season, leading the county and the Southern Piedmont Conference with 2,629 yards of offense, averaging 438 yards per game.
Cloninger said pressuring senior East Lincoln quarterback Garrett Young, who is averaging 315 passing yards and nearly four touchdowns per game, is one of the keys to the Wolves’ game today. The Mustangs have a stable of athletic receivers, but have favored seniors Tyler Brock (23 receptions, 463 yards, five touchdowns) and Jesse Earnhardt (28 receptions, 658 yards, five touchdowns) and freshman Chaz Surratt (26 receptions, 528 yards, two touchdowns).
Young’s precision is even more remarkable than his production — he’s thrown 163 attempts with 106 completions, all without an interception.
“That’s one of the most impressive things that stands out with them,” Cloninger said. “That shows you that he’s making his reads real well, he’s got great protection and his players are going up and getting the ball for him.”
The Wolves hope to keep the East Lincoln defense off-balance with varied defensive formations.
“We’re going to mix it up all night long,” Cloninger said. “If we’re in the same look two times in a row we’ve made a mistake. That’s the key — you have to mix things up. We’re going to try to disguise coverages. He hasn’t thrown an interception this year, but hopefully we can make him make a wrong throw and maybe pick one off. That would be good for us offensively, so we can run the clock and move the chains.”
Lincolnton welcomes the return of senior fullback and linebacker Darian Roseboro and junior lineman Drew Dawson to the roster this week after both missed last week with injuries. Roseboro, in addition to being a power on defense, leads the Lincolnton offense with 61 carries for 300 yards and five touchdowns.
“We’re just hoping that they can complete the game and stay healthy,” Cloninger said, “and do what we’re asking them to do defensively.”
North Lincoln Knights (0-6, 0-2 SPC) at Highland Tech Rams (0-5, 0-2 SPC)
The North Lincoln Knights have a good opportunity to pick up their first win of the season today against a Highland Tech Rams team that has been nothing short of dismal.
“They’ve been struggling a little bit,” North Lincoln head coach David Maness said. “They’ve played a pretty tough schedule. They have some athletic ability and decent-sized kids. I’m sure their coach is telling their players the same thing we are — this is an opportunity for us to get our season turned around.”
The Knights have averaged 12 points per game through the first six weeks of the season — more than enough to overcome Highland Tech’s 49 points allowed and 1.2 points for per game. The Rams have scored one time this season, putting up six points against Village Christian in the third week of the season.
North Lincoln has been steadily improving, despite losing a 33-0 shutout to East Lincoln last week. The Knights held the Mustangs to a 7-0 lead through the first half before breaking down for 19 points in the third quarter.
North Lincoln had averaged 144.5 rushing yards in its last two games, slightly better than its 143 rushing yards average for the season. The addition of sophomore quarterback Devan Cox has pushed the Knights’ passing yards from 96 yards after the third week of the season to 348 yards through last week. Cox has 252 yards on 18 completions with five interceptions since taking his first snaps in the Knights’ 42-18 loss against Bandys.
West Lincoln Rebels (3-3, 1-1 SPC) at Cherryville Ironmen (3-3, 2-0 SPC)
The West Lincoln Rebels travel to Cherryville to face the Ironmen today and hope to bounce back from a loss last week to Lake Norman Charter.
The Rebels and the Ironmen, on paper, appear very similar. Both teams are averaging around 24 points per game and both have allowed an average of 22 points per game. The Ironmen beat the Rebels 13-7 last year but the Rebels came out on top 35-28 in 2010, West Lincoln head coach Tom Sain’s first year at the helm.
“It’s been back and forth in the last couple of years and we don’t want to lose two years in a row,” he said. “Cherryville is having a good year. They have probably the biggest line I’ve seen in a while. Their quarterback is kind of a small kid but that makes him fast and hard to find.”
Cherryville quarterback Darius Harris is one of the pillars of the Cherryville running game.
“He would rather keep it and run it himself,” Sain said. “It’s not so much of a power run but he’s hard to get down. He’s one of those running backs that if you don’t make a good form tackle on him he’s probably going to get away. He eludes tackles very well.”
Sain said Harris’s skill in running the ball adds and extra challenge for his defensive linemen, who will also be tasked with overcoming a size disadvantage.
“I hope our linemen respond to the challenge because they bring the biggest group of linemen I’ve seen in a while,” he said. “If Harris gets through that first crease of the defensive line he’s running on linebackers and the secondary.”
Sain said the Rebels spent some time in the past week studying film from last week’s 41-13 loss to Lake Norman Charter. One of West Lincoln’s bright spots last week was senior fullback Daniel Davila, who picked up 129 yards on 28 carries and a touchdown, all while nursing a dislocated toe. Sain said he was impressed with and proud of Davila’s “courage” in that game.