By RYAN HERMAN
The Southern District 7 Athletic 2A Conference championship can’t be decided tonight, but the winner between East Lincoln and Maiden has a clear path to it.
The league’s only unbeatens, the Blue Devils (9-0, 5-0) and Mustangs (5-4, 5-0) go head-to-head in a battle for first place with two games left in the regular season.
The game features a pair of state-ranked 2A teams by the Associated Press media poll, the league’s top two offenses, two of its top four defenses and a pair of the SD-7’s best quarterbacks.
Third-ranked East Lincoln is tops in the league in offense at 426 yards and 39.8 points per game and sports its best defense at 235.6 yards allowed per game. Right behind the Mustangs offensively are the seventh-ranked Blue Devils, led by senior quarterback Jake McRee, at 347.3 yards and 38.8 points per game.
McRee has, unofficially, 2,198 yards and 30 TDs passing this season, and right behind him is East Lincoln sophomore Chazz Surratt.
Surratt, a dual-threat where McRee excels with only the pass, has 2,943 yards of total offense (1,768 passing) and 43 total TDs.
A possible conference title isn’t the only thing on the line tonight. Maiden, which began playing high school football in 1953, is going for its 500th win in program history in its 700th game, the Hickory Daily Record reported.
The Mustangs are looking to extend their conference game win streak to 17 games and win their fourth conference title under head coach Mike Byus.
Whomever wins tonight will have to win its final game to ensure there isn’t a tie atop the conference. Maiden hosts Lincolnton in the regular season finale while East Lincoln travels to West Lincoln.
LINCOLNTON at WEST CALDWELL
The Wolves take their season-best three-game win streak to Lenoir tonight to face the one-win Warriors.
Lincolnton (6-3, 4-1) had its best game of the season defensively last week, holding Newton-Conover to 164 total yards and picking off four passes –– three by Quinlyn Harris.
That doesn’t bode well for West Caldwell (1-8, 0-5), which is last in the SD-7 in offense at 225.7 yards and 11.4 points per game.
The Wolves’ 30-7 win over the Red Devils, coupled with West Lincoln’s 17-3 loss at Maiden, gave them third place in the standings all to themselves. A win tonight wraps up at least a third-place finish.
NORTH LINCOLN at STATESVILLE
The Knights may have lost four of their last five games, but they take with them to Statesville tonight the knowledge that they need one more win to qualify for the state playoffs.
North Lincoln (3-6, 1-4 North Piedmont 3A/4A) has two games left against 3A teams –– at Statesville tonight and at home against West Iredell next week –– and both are winnable. While the Greyhounds (4-5, 3-2) are fourth in the league standings –– second among 3A teams –– and have its third-best offense at 372.9 yards per game, they are allowing 29.4 points per game.
BANDYS at WEST LINCOLN
The Rebels look to rebound tonight after their SD-7-best running game was held to 172 yards last week and they were kept out of the end zone for the first time since being shut out at East Rutherford in 2011.
West Lincoln (7-2, 3-2), which can finish no worse than tied for fourth, still has the league’s best rushing attack at 304.3 yards per game and it faces a team in Bandys (3-6, 1-4) that is next-to-last in stopping the run at 224.7 yards allowed per game.
The Trojans have lost three straight and six of seven since winning their first two games. West Lincoln is looking to reach the eight-win plateau for just the fifth time in school history.