By RYAN HERMAN
East Lincoln is on a roll.
The Mustangs enter their county showdown tonight with North Lincoln having won 18 straight games dating back to last year, averaging 42 points per game this season and nearly 400 offensive yards per contest.
Not bad for a team that, before the season began, wasn’t sure what to expect considering the new faces in new places following last year’s mass exodus of key players due to graduation.
“We’ve got some kids that can play,” Mustangs coach Mike Byus said.
East Lincoln (2-0) has dispatched of 3A East Gaston and private school Charlotte Q Foundation by a combined 56 points in its first two games. Offensively the Mustangs have been virtually unstoppable as well. They’re third in total offense in the Southern District 7 Athletic 2A Conference at 390 yards per game, tied for third in scoring offense and second in points allowed at 14 points per game.
Sophomore quarterback Chazz Surratt is third in the league in rushing at 106.5 yards per game, and leads the league in scores with six. He’s second in passing at 177.5 yards per game and tied for second in passing TDs with four.
Damisho Finandis is third in receiving with 117 yards and a TD on 17 receptions.
But even with all that firepower, East Lincoln isn’t overlooking the Knights.
North Lincoln (0-2) is a handful of missed opportunities from being 2-0 instead of 0-2.
Last week’s 35-27 loss to West Lincoln was a bit of a letdown to coach David Maness, considering how well his team played –– missed opportunities aside –– at Lincolnton in Week 1.
Last week, the Knights just couldn’t get anything going, especially when it came to stopping the Rebels’ running game –– something the Mustangs excel in as well.
“We’ve just got to get better,” Maness said. “We’ve got to find some people that can line up and play some defense.”
Tonight’s clash will feature the top two overall offenses in the county, but on the defensive end is where the teams make their separation.
While East Lincoln is allowing just 14 points and 182 yards per Friday night, the Knights are allowing 31.5 points and 251 yards –– 212.5 rushing –– a game.
Junior quarterback Chase Caldwell is second in the county and fourth in the North Piedmont 3A/4A Conference in passing at 104.5 yards per game. Senior running back Richard Jackson is fourth in the county at 85.5 yards rushing per game and has four TDs.
East Lincoln is 9-1 all-time against North Lincoln. The Knights’ lone win came in 2007.
CHERRYVILLE at WEST LINCOLN
The Rebels enter tonight’s home tilt looking to start a season 3-0 for the first time since winning their first five games in 2010 –– the best season in modern West Lincoln football history –– while the Ironmen have dropped five in a row dating back to last year.
West Lincoln’s recipe for success has been its running game. The Rebels enter tonight’s rivalry matchup third in rushing at 229 yards per game, unofficially, among the eight teams in the Southern District 7 Athletic 2A Conference. Senior running back Daniel Davila is second individually at 126 yards per game following his 182-yard outburst at North Lincoln last week. Davila trails Newton-Conover’s Nick Baker, who is averaging 130.5 yards per contest.
Cherryville, which fell 26-20 to league foe Bessemer City in a non-conference matchup last week –– the teams will play their conference game on Nov. 8 –– is averaging 255 yards of total offense a night. Its defense, which gave up 51 points to Bunker Hill in a season-opening loss, is allowing over 300 yards per game, 283 of which are rushing.
LINCOLNTON at NORTH GASTON
The Wolves head into their showdown with the Wildcats tonight in Dallas trying to shake off a loss to South Point in which they yielded 49 points, scored none, and gave up 500 total yards. Conversely, North Gaston (2-0) is coming off a come-from-behind victory in which it scored 15 unanswered points in the final two minutes to knock off East Rutherford 43-42.
Lincolnton’s offense has sputtered early, averaging 199 yards in two games while its defense has given up a total of 770 yards and 76 points. The Wildcats, who walloped Bessemer City 42-6 in Week 1, are averaging 405 yards of offense and 346 yards rushing through two games. They are led offensively by rushers Josh Kahlig and Nick Askin, who are averaging 121.5 yards and 106.5 yards per game, respectively, according to unofficial statistics kept by the Gaston Gazette.
The Wolves (1-1), who were held scoreless last week for the first time in more than six seasons, are trying to avoid starting a season 1-2 for the second straight year.