By RYAN HERMAN
Not playing on Friday was just what the doctor ordered for East Lincoln.
The Mustangs, who had their school-best 19-game winning streak snapped at Gastonia Forestview two Fridays ago, spent the better part of last week taking it easy from a physicality standpoint to buy some time to allow nagging injuries to heal for several key skill players.
“We took Monday and Friday off. … We did nothing live, just working on the fundamentals of the base things that we do on both sides of the ball,” East Lincoln head coach Mike Byus said. “Just trying to get healthy for us.”
Byus, who said his team was down four significant skill players and a lineman in the 44-27 loss to the Jaguars, gave his team Monday and Friday of last week off. On Tuesday the players only wore helmets, on Wednesday they added shoulder pads and on Thursday they wore full gear and “hit a little bit,” all in an effort to begin Southern District 7 Athletic 2A Conference play at Bandys on the right foot later this week.
The Mustangs (3-1) haven’t lost back-to-back games since Sept. 3 and 9, 2011, against, ironically enough, Bandys and East Gaston.
“We’ve just got to get some bodies back healthy,” Byus said.
Missing against Forestview –– and questionable for the foreseeable future –– were running backs Domonique Smith (ankle) and Coleton Banks (stress fracture), and wide receiver Damisho Finandis (ankle). Receiver Malik Nixon hurt his ankle at Forestview, adding to the list.
And to add insult to injury, the Mustangs had five turnovers –– an interception thrown and four fumbles –– in their most lopsided loss since a 55-35 defeat at Lincolnton on Sept. 30, 2011.
“The longer the game went on last Friday, the fewer bodies we had to throw out there,” Byus said. “Of course, when you have five turnovers you’re not going to be anybody.”
As the injuries have piled up and the string of victories came to an end, East Lincoln was able to see four different opponents and four different offensive attacks and defensive schemes during its non-conference schedule.
While they’re no longer undefeated –– or the state’s top-ranked team in the 2A classification –– the Mustangs see their first four games as a springboard for what is to come in the SD-7.
“I think we got some good experience. We played against some teams with a variety of offenses. … We got to see some different things, and hopefully figure out what some kids can do and that’s all you can hope,” Byus said. “A record is a record. It all only depends on what you do in the conference, anyways. We’ll head on down to Sherrills Ford Friday night and see what we can do.”