By RYAN HERMAN
North Lincoln may have missed out on the state playoffs, but it didn’t go down without a fight.
The Knights, who had their most wins in a season since winning seven in 2008, ended the 2013 season on high note last week in their 48-14 win over West Iredell.
North Lincoln (4-7) set season highs for points, rushing yards (521) and total yards (552), and even qualified for the state playoffs although it wasn’t selected.
Even though the Knights lost more games than they won –– they picked up a non-conference win by forfeit from East Lincoln –– third-year coach David Maness is happy with his team’s never-give-up attitude.
“I learned that we can fight,” he said. “We fought hard. We had one game where we had a little bit of a letdown against South Iredell, but I thought the rest of the games we battled down to the wire. We learned that we will compete, that we’re competitors.”
Perhaps in no game that was more true than the season opener at Lincolnton.
North Lincoln was an extra point away from forcing overtime, and had it won that game things could have been different for the Knights.
If nothing less, they’d almost surely made the playoffs.
“(Things) could have been (different),” Maness said. “If we win that definitely would have put us in the playoffs, and you never know what impact that may have had on the rest of the season. It would have been a positive one, I think, but that’s something that we’ll never know.”
A few other positives that came from this season, Maness said, are his team’s ability to hold onto the football, it raised its scoring from a season ago, and as the season went on its running game improved.
It also returns a lot of key players in 2014.
“We’re looking forward to that part,” Maness said.
Aside from missing out on the state playoffs, Maness would have liked to have seen his team close out some tight games, including the loss to Lincolnton and one a week later to West Lincoln.
“Early we had a couple of close games that we didn’t win that went down to the wire. We had some close games at Lincolnton and against West (Lincoln) and they’re both in the playoffs right now, they had pretty good seasons. I felt like we were competitive with them and had an opportunity to win, we just didn’t finish it,” he said.
One thing Maness wants fans and naysayers to know is that, regardless of his team winning just three games on the field, his team has 2A classification numbers playing against much larger 3A and 4A schools.
That takes its toll as the season wears on.
“After every one of those 4A games we had one or two players that missed (some time), and we had been fairly healthy up until the time we started that stretch of 4As. Just the shear numbers of (the 4A teams). Mooresville dressed 80 players. That’ll kind of wear you down,” Maness said.
Yet he makes no excuses.
“But that’s the hand we’ve been dealt,” he said, “and we’ll have to play it until it changes.”