Game of the Week: West Lincoln Rebels (5-5, 3-3 SPC) at Lincolnton Wolves (5-5, 4-2 SPC)
The West Lincoln Rebels and the Lincolnton Wolves both have enough wins to get them into the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 2A state playoffs. Today’s game, the last of the regular season, is about bragging rights and seeding in the playoff brackets.
“This is one of the games we always look forward to,” Lincolnton head coach Scott Cloninger said. “I know our young people are excited. It’s going to be a great atmosphere and a great challenge. This will be a key to where each one of us is seeded in the playoffs.”
The Wolves are on a three-game hot streak, and most recently defeated North Lincoln 17-7 last week. West Lincoln has won one of its last three games, but took a resounding 20-point win, 54-34, over the Bessemer City Yellow Jackets last week. The Rebels managed to take last week’s win with a redesigned offensive line after injuries sidelined several of its players. Cloninger said he was impressed by West Lincoln head coach Tom Sain and his players’ ability to take a key conference victory, given the injuries sustained by the team.
“Coach Sain and his staff have done a great job,” Cloninger said. “They’re giving their kids a chance to win. They’ve had a ton of injuries and it’s so impressive to see how they’ve filled in at different positions.”
Cloninger noted West Lincoln’s defensive aggressiveness as a challenge to the Wolves this week. The Wolves have the top defense in the Southern Piedmont Conference, allowing 270 yards per game, while the Rebels take third place, allowing 289 yards per game.
“We knew defense was going to be our strong suit,” Cloninger said. “We’re going to have to improve some offensively. We’re never where we want to be but I think we’re getting better.”
The Wolves have allowed 8 points per game in their last five games.
Cherryville Ironmen (4-6, 3-3 SPC) at East Lincoln Mustangs (10-0, 6-0 SPC)
The East Lincoln Mustangs can complete the first undefeated season in school history and secure the best league record in Southern Piedmont Conference play with a win over the Cherryville Ironmen today.
The Ironmen have taken all three of their Southern Piedmont Conference wins against the bottom three teams in the conference standings, but narrowly lost a high-scoring affair against the No. 2 Lake Norman Charter Knights (8-1, 5-1 SPC) 55-48 last week.
Today’s game pits the Mustangs, the SPC’s top offense, against Cherryville’s stingy defense. East Lincoln is averaging 267 passing yards per game, largely thanks to senior quarterback Garrett Young’s 235 passing yards per game. Young has been extremely accurate through the season, completing 64 percent of his passes with only one season interception and three touchdowns per game. The Ironmen have the second best yards-allowed average in the league at 272 yards per game.
The Mustangs have spread their passing game around to 11 different receivers, with senior Jesse Earnhardt leading the team with 45 receptions for 892 yards and 10 touchdowns. Freshman Chaz Surratt (28-614 yards, four touchdowns) and senior Tyler Brock (28-549 yards, nine touchdowns) round out the heart of East Lincoln’s receivers.
The Ironmen are a run-focused team, with senior quarterback Darius Harris, despite his 5-foot-7, 145-pound stature, contributing 82 rushing yards to Cherryville’s 275 yards per game.
North Lincoln Knights (2-8, 2-4 SPC) at Bessemer City Yellow Jackets (1-9, 1-5 SPC)
The North Lincoln Knights can end the season on a high note against the Bessemer City Yellow Jackets today. The Knights, at 2-8 overall, have already doubled their win total from last year’s season, and are coming off a 17-7 loss to Lincolnton last week.
“It should be a challenge for us,” North Lincoln head coach David Maness said. “We should have an opportunity to do pretty well. It would be good for our seniors to go out on a positive note and it would be something to build off of in the off-season.”
Bessemer City’s lone win came against the ailing Highland Tech Rams (0-9, 0-6 SPC) three weeks ago. The Yellow Jackets took a 54-34 loss against West Lincoln last week. They run a triple option, flexbone offense with a focus on quarterback Damian Scott.
Maness said the Knights think the future is bright for the North Lincoln football program.
“Everybody understands that we’re not where we want to be, but we’re not where we were either,” he said. “We’ve been competitive in a lot of games. We’ve improved consistently during the year and hopefully we put on our best performance Friday night.”