Thomasville Bulldogs (6-7, 4-1 CCC) at East Lincoln Mustangs (13-0, 7-0 SPC)
East Lincoln head football coach Mike Byus said the Mustang defense will have to control Thomasville running back Gabe Brockett today if his team hopes to continue its undefeated season through the third round of the 2A state playoffs.
Brockett, a 6-foot-1, 180 lb. senior, has recorded 129 carries for 1,150 yards and 13 touchdowns in Thomasville’s last three games alone and has 3,627 yards on the season. His figures in the last three games are 110 yards shy of the rushing yardage recorded by East Lincoln’s top two running backs through the entire season.
“We have to find a way to slow him down,” Byus said. “We can’t let him run wild. They have good kids up front and he has really good vision. He sees a hole and he has good timing. He hits that hole when it becomes open and when he puts his foot on the ground he can go.”
Brockett runs behind an offensive line that includes two 300 lb. seniors in Lawrence Phillips (5-foot 9, 310 lb.) and Adonis Leonard (5-foot-9, 370 lb.).
Thomasville opened the season with a six-game losing streak, but has gone 6-1 in its last seven games. The Bulldog defense has allowed an average of 18 points over its last seven games.
“Their defense is athletic,” Byus said. “They’re big and quick where they need to be and fast where they need to be.”
The Bulldogs will have to contend with an East Lincoln offense that has become more balanced between running and passing recently, after relying solely on senior quarterback Garrett Young and the Mustang receivers in the early weeks of the season. East Lincoln ran for over 200 yards in each of the first two games of the postseason. Senior running back Marquis Pharr leads the East Lincoln ground attack with 74 season carries for 652 yards and 10 touchdowns. Junior Domonique Smith has 99 carries for 608 yards and seven touchdowns.
Young, who crossed the 3,000 yards threshold on the season last week in the Mustangs’ 37-24 win over Starmount, is averaging 245 yards and three touchdowns per game. Senior wide receiver Jesse Earnhardt (60-1,140 yards, 13 touchdowns) met the 1,000-yard mark for the season two weeks ago against Wheatmore, and freshman Chaz Surratt is not far behind with 45 receptions for 923 yards and nine touchdowns).
The East Lincoln defense, led by senior linebacker Scott McMichael’s 125 season tackles, has allowed only 10 points per game since the team began Southern Piedmont Conference play on September 14 against Bessemer City.
The East Lincoln defense shut out Wheatmore in the first round of the playoffs and executed several key plays, including a safety by senior defensive lineman Dallas Smith in the final minute of the game, which led to the win over Starmount last week.
The winner of today’s game will face either Shelby (8-5, 4-2 South Mountain Athletic Conference) or Madison County (12-1, 6-1 Western Highlands Conference) for the Western Region Championship next week.