By RYAN HERMAN
The NCHSAA on Tuesday released the statewide Average Daily Membership numbers –– or school enrollments –– used to seed the state’s football playoffs. The values, supplied to the NCHSAA by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, are used to determine whether a school falls into the larger (AA) or smaller (A) bracket in each classification.
Heading into Friday’s regular season finale three of the four Lincoln County varsity football teams will play through at least the first round on Nov. 15 –– East Lincoln, Lincolnton and West Lincoln. North Lincoln, which has just three wins, must beat West Iredell on Friday to become playoff eligible.
According to the ADMs, West Lincoln is assured of a spot in the 2AA bracket as it is the 28th largest 2A school in the state.
Both Lincolnton and East Lincoln fall into the middle group of 2A schools, meaning they’re neither in the top 32 or the bottom 32. But East Lincoln will almost certainly be a 2AA team this year –– it won the 2A title last season –– because it is the 34th largest 2A school in the state.
Lincolnton could go either way, depending on which teams ahead of it and below it qualify. It has the 48th largest 2A population.
If North Lincoln wins Friday and is selected, it will be assured a spot in the smaller 3A bracket as, per the ADMs, it is the fourth smallest 3A school in the state.
West Lincoln’s ADM is 908, followed by East Lincoln (893) and Lincolnton (837). North Lincoln’s is 992 –– 82 fewer students than the largest 2A school in Hunter Huss.
Each subdivision –– A and AA –– has 32 qualifiers, 16 from the East and 16 from the West. The playoffs will be seeded by the NCHSAA on Saturday.
The state championships will take place Dec. 13-14. The 3A title game will be held at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh while the 2A-2AA games will be held at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill.
Out of gas?
In its two-game losing streak, West Lincoln’s league-best rushing attack has been nullified by a pair of teams that fall in the bottom half of the conference at stopping the run.
The Rebels (7-3, 3-3 Southern District 7 Athletic 2A) were held to a season-low 172 yards rushing in a 17-3 loss at Maiden two Fridays ago. Last week, they ran for 206 yards against a Bandys team that is seventh against the run but were held to only one touchdown in the 34-7 loss.
The 10 total points in back-to-back weeks are their fewest since scoring seven total points in losses to East Rutherford and North Iredell Sept. 9 and 16, 2011. And things don’t get easier.
West Lincoln hosts the league’s first-place team with its best defense on Friday in East Lincoln.
On the gas
Lincolnton is in the midst of a season-best four-game win streak, and in all four wins have come its top four offensive performances of the year.
The Wolves (7-3, 5-1) had 501 yards of total offense, easily their best of the season, and a year-high for points in a 48-21 win at West Caldwell last week. They had 375 total yards in a 30-7 win against Newton-Conover two weeks ago, 468 yards in a 35-23 win at Bunker Hill on Oct. 18 and 398 total yards in a 30-29 win over Bandys on Oct. 11.
Their previous season high in total yards was 279 in a 10-7 loss at North Gaston on Sept. 6.
Lincolnton can own second place in the SD-7 all to itself with a win at Maiden on Friday. The two teams are currently tied for second with one conference loss each.
Best get better
East Lincoln’s 42-0 shellacking of seventh-ranked Maiden last week not only gave it the upper hand on the SD-7 title, but was its most dominating performance of the season defensively.
The Mustangs (6-4, 6-0) had their first shutout this year and held the league’s second-best offense to a season-worst 131 total yards. Those yards were also the fewest allowed by East Lincoln this season.
Its previous season-low for yards allowed was 137 against Charlotte Q Foundation on Aug. 30. A win over West Lincoln on Friday will give the Mustangs their fourth conference championship outright under head coach Mike Byus. They can also clinch the title with a Maiden loss to Lincolnton.
And then fall
Four days after dismantling Maiden, East Lincoln fell from third to fourth in this week’s Associated Press statewide 2A media poll.
The Mustangs now trail unbeatens North Rowan (10-0) and Franklin (10-0) plus one-loss Winston-Salem Carver (9-1) in the poll, which is voted on by a panel of high school sports writers around the state each week.
The Blue Devils, who suffered their first loss of the season at East Lincoln, fell from seventh to 10th.
Rounding out the top 10 are High Point Andrews (9-1), Reidsville (8-2), Monroe (8-2), Shelby (7-3), Washington (8-2) and Maiden.
Win and you’re (maybe) in
North Lincoln needs one more win to become state playoff eligible, but having four wins doesn’t automatically guarantee it a spot.
The Knights (3-7, 1-5 North Piedmont 3A/4A) are one of 12 teams in the 3A classification sitting on three wins, according to season records on NCPreps.com. There are 10 teams that have the NCHSAA-minimum of four wins heading into the last Friday of the regular season. Out of 100 3A teams, 22 don’t qualify because they can’t reach the four-win mark.
All that means 56 of the 64 3A spots –– 32 A and 32 AA –– have already been taken (although seeds have yet to be determined), leaving 22 teams fighting for one of the last eight spots with one game left.