GASTONIA — A late start and a wet field after a night of thunderstorms didn’t seem to dampen the North Lincoln Knights’ performance as they stomped the Highland Tech Rams Friday night 42-7.
The full moon seemed to bring out a different North Lincoln team than last week, as they scored touchdown after field goal after two-point conversion.
A completed pass to Rams’ sophomore wide receiver Kendrick Barnes that brought Highland Tech to the 27 yard line may have had Knights’ fans worried as the Rams made strides toward the end zone. However, a false start, two sacks of sophomore quarterback Neven Sussman and an interception all within the first three minutes of the first quarter showed a side of the Knights fans hadn’t seen yet this season. “We came out early and played well early in the game,” North Lincoln head coach David Maness said. “We ran the ball early in the game, we didn’t punt all night and there were no turnovers — two positive things.”
Just under four minutes into the first quarter senior Knights’ running back Carlos Arceyut, who ended with 54 yards, scored North Lincoln’s first of six touchdowns. The Knights were hoping to follow with a two-point conversion, but a holding call against North Lincoln left the scoreboard at 6-0 for the time being.
Sophomore North Lincoln quarterback Devan Cox had a rocky first quarter, with a few wild passes that had fans asking each other who the ball was intended for. Senior wide receiver Scott DeLuca kept his presence known as he scored the second touchdown, totaling 12 points Friday night and adding 62 yards to his team’s 291 rushing yards. He pushed through the defense with ease prior to his march to the end zone.
Closing out the first quarter, Highland Tech couldn’t seem to move the ball toward the end zone, barely scooting past their 20-yard line.
An illegal formation call halted the possibility of six more points on the scoreboard, though senior Cory Blake snuck in a final touchdown followed with another two-point conversion, putting the Rams behind 22 points after just 12 minutes of play in the first quarter.
The second quarter was much the same, as DeLuca continued to break through the Rams’ defense. Joseph Shore of the Knights highlighted the first half with a 23-yard catch in the end zone, racking up his team’s lead to 29-0.
DeLuca and Blake followed with a touchdown a piece, making the outcome bleak for Highland Tech going into the second half. The only ground made by the Rams in the first two quarters was due to missteps by the Knights. A roughing-the-passer penalty pushed the Rams 15 yards closer to the end zone, but a fumble recovered by the Knights took away the sudden burst momentum.
Fifteen more yards in penalties were given up by North Lincoln, but the Knights’ defense matched Sussman and junior wide receiver Rollin Jenkins step-for-step. Jenkins caught three passes totaling 72 receiving yards. Senior defensive end Taylor Woodby, Shore and senior linebacker Paul Regan led the defense, totaling four sacks.
Half-time seemed to wake up the Highland Tech team that looked tired and broken near the end of the first half. Though the Rams couldn’t get it together for any touchdowns in the third quarter, the defense held off the Knights, who also didn’t add any more points to the board during the second half.
Maness decided to put in an entirely-junior varsity offensive line the remainder of the game, wanting to focus more on giving the rookie players more experience than adding more points to an already near-shutout game.
Highland Tech did pull off a sack by sophomore cornerback Kendrick Barnes and a touchdown from Jenkins half way through the final quarter. The Rams’ showed up to play a few quarters too late, falling to the Knights at the end of the night.
“It felt like we were at a crossroad and needed to win this game,” Maness said. “We needed to not only win, but to play well and not just sneak by.”