By RYAN HERMAN
PUMPKIN CENTER –– Needing a second-half spark for the second straight week, West Lincoln looked to Daniel Davila.
The senior running back scored two of his three touchdowns in the second half including the game winner, and had 182 yards on the ground to lead the Rebels to a 35-27 win at North Lincoln on Friday.
Davila had three 1-yard TD runs, the last with 1:04 to play that sent West Lincoln to a 2-0 start for the second straight year.
The 5-foot-7, 170-pound bruiser had 136 yards on 19 totes in the second half alone.
“It’s hard work. Hard work and execution,” Davila said. “You’ve got to play hard until the end.”
Tied at 21, West Lincoln put the ball in Davila’s hands 14 times on its final three drives, two resulting in scores.
A 32-yard jaunt by Davila set up his 1-yard score with 8:37 to play. Following a quick kick on its next drive, Davila again answered a one-point game with a 48-yard run that led to his score on first-and-goal from the 1 with just over a minute to go.
Davila, last year’s leading rusher in the final season of the old Southern Piedmont 1A/2A Conference, had just 46 yards on 14 rushes in the first half. He credited his offensive line for improving a 3.3 yards per carry average in the first half to 7.2 yards in the second.
“It was the big boys up front,” Davila said. “They gave me the push, I ran the ball.”
As Davila was busy following his blockers, the Knights were busy missing tackles and opportunities.
Again, North Lincoln (0-2) was marred by mistakes, missed assignments and turnovers, as it scored 27 points for the second straight game.
Trailing 21-14 in the third quarter, the Knights methodically went 60 yards in 14 plays to reach the red zone. But a pair of incompletions on third and fourth downs gave it back to the Rebels at the North Lincoln 20.
Down 28-21 early in the fourth, North Lincoln benefited from good field position with the ball at midfield, and had first-and-10 at the West Lincoln 34 following a 17-yard run by Richard Jackson. But the snap was fumbled on the next play, and the Rebels recovered.
While neither play led to a score by West Lincoln –– the Rebels fumbled it away following the turnover on downs and were forced to punt after the botched snap –– they left points for North Lincoln out on the field.
“We played very poorly on defense. I think a lot of it had to do with, we started (preparation) at 7:30 tonight. We didn’t start on Monday,” said Knights coach David Maness, speaking to a week of sub-par practices.
“We’ve got 27 points two weeks in a row and we’re 0-and-2.”
Miguel Corella, who ran for a score and threw for another, had a quick kick go off the side of his foot for a net total of 3 yards to give the Knights the ball at the West Lincoln 40 –– the punt following the dropped snap.
North Lincoln junior quarterback Chase Caldwell connected with Jackson for 25 yards, which led to back-to-back runs by J-Mo Thompson, who scored from the 9 to make it 28-27.
But, in an eerie sense of deja-vu, the PAT was wide, leaving it 28-27 with 4:47 to go –– last week’s final score in a loss at Lincolnton in which a bad snap on the PAT cost the Knights a chance at forcing overtime.
“It’s a culmination of what’s gone on all week,” Maness said. “Like I said, we’ve just got to get better.”
The Rebels used a nine-play drive that took more than 3 1/2 minutes, highlighted by Davila’s 48-yard run and 1-yard score, to seal the deal.
Corella was 2 of 3 passing for 39 yards, 28 of which went for a score to Austin May that helped tie it at 14-all at halftime. Corrella’s 13-yard TD jaunt gave West Lincoln a 21-14 lead early in the third quarter.
Jackson had 99 yards rushing on 17 carries and scored on a 3-yard run to help give North Lincoln a 14-7 advantage with 4:33 left in the first half.
Ethan Gram got things going with a 38-yard TD run on a free untimed down at the end of the first quarter following a West Lincoln penalty. He finished with 73 yards rushing and three catches for 65 yards.
Caldwell was 5 of 11 passing for 99 yards and a TD. He and Taylor Woodby connected for a 28-yard TD pass early in the fourth quarter that made it 21-21.
Although things were tied 14-14 at the break, the Knights outgained the Rebels 165-96 in offense.
“When you take a team from Week 1 to Week 2, that’s where you get the most improvement,” West Lincoln coach Tom Sain said. “It was two ball-control teams, and I thought our guys played well.”