By RYAN HERMAN
Everything teams have worked for all season comes down to one night.
East Lincoln can win the Southern District 7 Athletic 2A Conference title while Lincolnton and West Lincoln are playing for playoff seeding. North Lincoln is simply playing for a chance to get into the playoffs.
The Mustangs can win the SD-7 title outright with a win at West Lincoln, but it won’t come easy. East Lincoln head coach Mike Byus has called West Lincoln “one of the toughest places to play,” and the Mustangs (6-4, 6-0) will face one of the league’s best run-oriented offenses and one of its best defense.
The Rebels (7-3, 3-3), who are on a season-worst two-game losing streak, have the SD-7’s fourth-best offense in terms of total yards (335.5 per game) and its second-best rushing attack at 294.5 yards per game. East Lincoln is tops in offense and it isn’t even close, at 414.5 yards per game –– nearly 54 more yards than second-place Bunker Hill.
East Lincoln also sports the league’s best defense at 225.1 yards allowed per game, and it showed up last week as it held Maiden, then undefeated and with the league’s second-best offense, to a season-low 131 total yards.
The Rebels are in the playoffs, but it’s just a matter of where. A win tonight would give them eight in a season for only the sixth time in school history.
LINCOLNTON at MAIDEN
While East Lincoln can take the SD-7 title outright tonight with a win, Lincolnton can claim second place by doing the same thing.
The Wolves (7-3, 5-1) and Blue Devils (9-1, 5-1) are tied for second, giving that place –– given East Lincoln beats West Lincoln –– to the winner.
Lincolnton has been on a roll on offense lately, posting 1,742 total yards and 143 total points in its last four games. Conversely, Maiden has gone the opposite direction. In its last four games, it has gone from second to fifth in total offense, and has been held to 38 total points in its last three games, including last week’s 42-0 shutout at East Lincoln.
WEST IREDELL at NORTH LINCOLN
The NCHSAA minimum to make the state playoffs (except for 1A schools) is four wins, and that is the magic number the Knights can reach tonight.
North Lincoln (3-7, 1-5 North Piedmont 3A/4A) host an opponent that is last or next-to-late in the league in just about everything. The Raiders (0-10, 0-6) are next-to-last in points scored (225), last in points allowed (565) and next-to-last in total offense (2,897 total yards). The team West Iredell is ahead of in those two categories? North Lincoln, by a point in points scored and by 246 in yards gained.
A win makes North Lincoln eligible, but doesn’t mean it’ll get in. Heading into tonight there are 22 3A teams –– 10 with four wins already –– vying for eight open spots left.