By RYAN HERMAN
Having never seen the current high school football teams at East Lincoln, Lincolnton, North Lincoln or West Lincoln play, I don’t have much to go on in terms of picking who’s going to win this week.
History says Lincolnton should have no trouble putting away North Lincoln, but games aren’t won based on what happened last year. Unfortunately, I have nothing else to go on.
So here are predictions for our three area games, having nothing more than a some numbers from last season and a shiny new lucky quarter.
NORTH LINCOLN at LINCOLNTON: The Knights and Wolves have met each year since 2005 and Lincolnton is 7-1 in those eight games, with North Lincoln’s lone win coming in 2006. The Knights enter tonight’s opener lacking in experience at nearly all of the skill positions –– junior running back Richard Jackson was third in rushing for North Lincoln last year. Their counterparts, the Wolves, are the complete opposite. They return nearly all of their skill players, and coach Scott Cloninger has touted his defense as his team’s strength. While David Maness has seen a vast improvement in his team this season to date, it may not be enough to knock off Lincolnton for a second time in school history. Lincolnton 28, North Lincoln 12.
EAST LINCOLN at EAST GASTON: The Mustangs look to extend their winning streak to 17 games tonight when they take on a team they’ve played every season since at least 2001, when the two were members of the Big South 3A Conference. East Lincoln, which went 16-0 last season and won the state 2A title, enters with an unproven offense while East Gaston, which won twice last season, returns nine offensive starters. But this one could come down to defense. The Warriors return just four starters on a defense that, according to 2012 stats kept and shared by the Gaston Gazette, allowed nearly 400 yards and 46.6 points per game. The Mustangs return six starters, several with college opportunities, on a defense that was tops last year in the Southern Piedmont 1A/2A. East Lincoln 34, East Gaston 17.
VALDESE DRAUGHN at WEST LINCOLN: Both of these teams –– which have never met before –– love to run the football, so expect a between-the-tackles type of tussle. In a run-first league, Draughn was sixth in rush defense at 195.8 yards allowed per game last season in the Catawba Valley Athletic 2A according to stats kept and shared by the Hickory Daily Record. The Rebels, who return most of their rushers, including 1,800-plus yard senior Daniel Davila, had 272.2 rushing yards per game. The Wildcats had 225.7 rushing yards per game while West Lincoln held its opponents to 218.8 rushing yards per contest. But none of those numbers matter because it’s a new year. And, quite frankly, the Rebels only care about this year. West Lincoln 13, Draughn 6.