By RYAN HERMAN
East Lincoln finished last season by winning its first state title in football, and it will begin next season as a favorite to do it again.
The Mustangs, who were a perfect 16-0 last year and knocked off three-time defending state champion Tarboro for the NCHSAA state 2A championship, were ranked No. 1 by NCPreps.com in its 2A preseason poll released on Thursday.
East Lincoln was joined by Tarboro, which moved down a classification to 1A in realignment, Havelock (3A) and Charlotte Mallard Creek (4A) as top-ranked teams.
No other Lincoln County teams were ranked in the polls.
While the preseason ranking is nice, the 2013 season is a brand new one, according to Mustangs coach Mike Byus.
“I think you’ve got to separate (the seasons). That was a great year, but that year’s over,” Byus said. “Not one single one of those wins is going to –– it was great, we’re going to cherish it for as long as we live –– but it’s not going to help us this year.
“I think you’ve got to continue to work hard, and that’s the biggest thing that we’ve got to instill in these kids,” Byus added.
“I think it puts a target on your back and it means you better be ready to play because everybody’s going to use you as a measuring stick.”
In addition to NCPreps.com naming East Lincoln as its preseason top 2A football team in the state, the N.C. high school sports website also named three Lincoln County individuals to its preseason all-state teams.
Lincolnton High’s standout defensive lineman Darian Roseboro and East Lincoln standout defensive lineman Dallas Lawing were named to the NCPreps.com preseason 2A all-state defense team. Both are rising juniors.
Rising East Lincoln sophomore Chazz Surratt was also named to the team as an athlete. Surratt had 1,835 total offensive yards and 26 total touchdowns last season as a freshman per statistics kept by the Lincoln Times-News.
Former East Lincoln quarterback Garrett Young made possible the game-winning drive when he found former Morganton Freedom running back David Burgess for a go-ahead touchdown screen pass near the end of the East-West All-Star football game on Wednesday night. The West won 14-7.
Young’s short dump to Burgess on first-and-10 went for 79 yards, and following the two-point conversion run put the West on top for good, 14-7, with 5:13 left to play.
Young completed 5 of 11 passes for 146 yards, a score and an interception. Former East Lincoln wide receiver Jesse Earnhardt had four catches for 38 yards.
Burgess added a 19-yard TD run in the third quarter and was named the game’s offensive MVP.