By RYAN HERMAN
Reeling after back-to-back losses, Lincolnton’s football team is in need of a confidence boost.
The Wolves, shut out two weeks ago by Belmont South Point and plagued by turnovers in a 10-7 loss at North Gaston last week, look to turn the corner today when they host winless East Gaston at 7:30 p.m.
Lincolnton (1-2) switched its set offense from the option to the I-formation last week, and while it was able to move the ball more efficiently and effectively against the Wildcats, four turnovers hurt, including an interception thrown in the red zone.
“We were more consistent moving the ball up and down the field, but turnovers are what cost us that game,” Lincolnton coach Scott Cloninger said. “When you commit four turnovers … that’s tough, when you make that many mistakes and you’re trying to win.”
Now that Lincolnton seems to be moving the ball better –– it had a season-best 279 total yards in the loss –– next comes taking that production and putting it into a win.
The Wolves host a team that is itself reeling, having began the season 0-2 for four consecutive losses dating back to last year.
East Gaston, which was off last week, this season has allowed 726 total yards –– 590 on the ground –– while gaining 516, according to statistics kept by the Gaston Gazette. The Warriors fell to East Lincoln, 37-22, in their season opener, and dropped one to Kings Mountain, 40-23.
Although its record doesn’t reflect it, Cloninger feels East Gaston is equally as good as its Gaston County rival, North Gaston, which is undefeated.
“They’re just as talented as North Gaston, yet the difference in the two is North Gaston is playing with a lot of confidence right now and East Gaston, they’re searching for that first win of the season,” Cloninger said, “but they are a very talented team.”
Cloninger said the decision to move to the I-formation was made out of necessity so that his wingbacks could get more touches.
“We felt like our wings were are best athletes, and they were not touching the ball enough. What we’ve done is we’ve went to the I and put our wings at the tailback position in hopes of getting them the ball a little bit more and giving them a little bit more success offensively,” he said.
The Wolves are hosting a homecoming of sorts this weekend, having invited all former players who have played at Lincolnton since the program’s beginning in 1921 to attend tonight’s game.
There has been a lot of talent and success come through its doors –– 406 total wins beginning with the 1959 season –– and many of it will be in attendance tonight.
Today’s game is the final non-conference contest of the season for Lincolnton heading into next week’s open date. Cloninger knows his team needs confidence heading into what figures to be a tough Southern District 7 Athletic 2A Conference schedule, beginning on Sept. 27 at West Lincoln.
“We need a confidence boost, that’s what we need. I think we’ll be fine as soon as we can get out of this little slump that we’re in. That’s a key thing, I think.” Cloninger said. “Anytime you can win a game and get a lot of confidence and feel good about yourself you’re going to play better, and that’s what we need.
“I challenged our team (Wednesday). I said, ‘There’s a lot of tradition and a lot of history of Lincolnton football coming back to see you play.’ That’s one thing we need to do –– we need to step up and play to the best of our ability, and show them that Lincolnton High School is still very rich in football tradition.”
BESSEMER CITY at NORTH LINCOLN
Like the Wolves, the Knights play their final non-league game of the season needing a win. North Lincoln (0-3) was happy with its performance at top-ranked East Lincoln –– it held the Mustangs to 14 points and 217 yards of offense in the first half before they broke out in the second –– but simply hanging with the state’s best 2A team for a half isn’t what second-year coach David Maness is looking for.
“We did some good things, but we’ve just got to get better,” he repeated afterwards.
North Lincoln hosts 1A Bessemer City, a team that knocked off Cherryville 26-20 in Week 2, but was crushed by North Gaston 42-6 in the opener and 35-0 by Hunter Huss last week.
The Yellow Jackets are giving up an average of 246.6 rushing yards per game, which is where the Knights excel, averaging 186.6 yards rushing per contest. Of Bessemer City’s 582 total yards of offense, all but 19 of it have come on the ground.
EAST LINCOLN at GASTONIA FORESTVIEW
The Mustangs face their toughest task of the season tonight when they travel to Gastonia to take on high-flying Forestview. While the Jaguars have a loss –– they dropped a barn-burner to Nations Ford (S.C.) 57-56 in Week 1 –– they have totaled more than 1,200 yards in three games. Leading them is running back Bishop Ford, who has 522 yards rushing and four touchdowns, and quarterback Logan Bradley, who has completed 64 percent (47 of 73) of his passes for 572 yards and six TDs without throwing a pick.
East Lincoln (3-0), which hasn’t lost since November 2011, has its own playmakers and high-powered offense. The Mustangs are second in the SD-7 and tops in the county at 1,182 total yards –– 394 per game –– and are boosted by sophomore quarterback Chazz Surratt, who is second in the league in passing (46 for 70, 598 yards, eight TDs) and third in rushing (275 yards, seven TDs).
East Lincoln’s defense is holding teams to 211.3 yards per game while Forestview is allowing 393, albeit 651 was allowed to Nations Ford out of Fort Mill.
WEST LINCOLN at FRED T. FOARD
The Rebels enter tonight’s rivalry matchup in Newton looking to go to 4-0 on the season. They destroyed Cherryville last week, 54-16, with 542 yards of total offense –– 520 on the ground.
The big game moved West Lincoln to first in the SD-7 in rushing at 326 yards per game, and moved senior running back Daniel Davila to tops in the league at 491 total rushing yards –– more than 180 yards higher than second place –– and 163.6 yards per game.
The Tigers (0-3) are reeling. They lost to Maiden 48-20 in Week 1, and in the process lost their starting quarterback, junior Matt Williams, for the season to a broke left leg, the Hickory Daily Record reported. Fred T. Foard was held to negative-8 yards of offense –– minus-31 on the ground –– in a 33-2 loss to Bandys in Week 2, and was shutout 34-0 to Bunker Hill last week.
The Tigers have allowed 1,146 total yards while gaining just 368.