The East Lincoln Mustangs varsity football team completed the first undefeated regular season in school history with its resounding 63-6 win over the Cherryville Ironmen on Friday.
The varsity squad wasn’t the only one battling for perfection — the Mustang junior varsity team finished the season 9-0.
“I’m real happy for the kids,” East Lincoln head coach Mike Byus said. “You look back on it and all you can do is be happy for the kids and our coaches with the work they put in.”
The junior varsity season is over, but several of the team’s impact players will be joining their varsity teammates on the field on Friday when the Mustangs host the Wheatmore Warriors, a No. 8 seed out of the Piedmont Athletic Conference, in the first round of the 2A West playoffs.
A perfect season wasn’t on the radar of the East Lincoln coaching staff in the first weeks of the season. But the team breezed through its four nonconference games, and played above its classification against two 4A schools in Hopewell and East Gaston.
“We expected to do the best would could in the first game and then the best we could in the second game,” Byus said. “We didn’t know, we didn’t really think about it. As a coach it’s hard to say, ‘I think we’re going to win them all this year.’ I don’t do that; I think about who we’re playing next. Whether we go 6-4 or 10-0 that’s the way I think.”
The varsity Mustangs hit the 11-0 mark with a relentless offensive attack and a defense that included the Southern Piedmont Conference’s top tackler in senior linebacker Scott McMichael (105 total). East Lincoln scored 39 of its 66 touchdowns on passes and senior quarterback Garrett Young leads the conference with 2,600 passing yards on 146 completions with two interceptions and 34 touchdowns.
“Our defense remained steady, to allow our offense to work out some issues and then find a way to move the ball,” Byus said. “If your defense isn’t playing well that doesn’t happen; you get too far behind.”
The Mustangs hit a snag in the Week 7 game against Lincolnton when Young, who was averaging 315 passing yards per game at the time, was sidelined with a knee injury.
“That’s when you find out if you have a team or individuals,” Byus said.
Freshman wide receiver and backup quarterback Chaz Surratt passed for 100 yards and a touchdown to lead the Mustangs to a 13-8 win over Lincolnton, their narrowest margin of the season. Young missed all of the Mustangs’ game against West Lincoln, but returned in Week 9 against Lake Norman Charter and has started under center ever since.
East Lincoln is now looking ahead to Friday’s game. Byus said the Mustangs treat the playoffs like a new season.
“We break it down that way with the kids,” he said. “You get your nonconference season, and we talk about those short-term goals. Now we’re 0-0, starting over. The draw is the draw, and you can only play the game you have this week.”