By RYAN HERMAN
Nearly a year’s worth of work has gone into what happens tonight.
Teams began preparing for the 2013 season almost immediately after the 2012 season ended. And it’s all come down to the first round of the state playoffs.
East Lincoln is trying to become Lincoln County’s first repeat state champion in football while West Lincoln is simply trying to win its first playoff game. And Lincolnton, in the postseason for a county-record 14th straight year, is trying to make it past the first round for the seventh consecutive season.
Regardless of the historical significance for each team in this year’s state playoffs and how they got here, all 256 state playoff-bound teams have one thing in common –– win or your season’s over.
Lucky for me, incorrect picks don’t end my season. But it gets harder and harder to be right as the playoffs progress.
BANDYS (5-6) at EAST LINCOLN (7-4): The Trojans were on a downward spiral, having lost three in a row and six of seven until they visited West Lincoln on Nov. 1. They’ve now won two in a row. Conversely, the Mustangs have lost just one game on the field all year –– their only loss in the last two seasons –– and have won seven in a row, including a 55-26 shellacking of Bandys that started it. East Lincoln is the only team I’ve seen this season that has gotten better with each and every game, aside from its loss at Gastonia Forestview in Week 4. Plus, the Mustangs have Chazz Surratt, whom no one has been able to stop, and a defense that no one has been able to get past. East Lincoln 42, Bandys 14.
LINCOLNTON (7-4) at THOMASVILLE (5-6): Both teams prefer to run the football than pass. Both teams are nearly identical in the number of NCHSAA playoff appearances each has had since 1972 (28 for Lincolnton, 31 for Thomasville). Both teams have two wins in four games against each other, but there’s been a pattern. Neither team has won back-to-back games against the other. Thomasville won the last time –– last year, actually –– so it’s the Wolves’ turn. Lincolnton 21, Thomasville 14.
WEST LINCOLN (7-4) at HUNTER HUSS (4-7): I have an odd, personal connection to this game. I am a 2000 graduate of West Lincoln while my father graduated from Hunter Huss in 1978. Both schools opened in 1962, and they played their first high school football game against each other. West Lincoln won. They did the same thing in 1963. Again, West Lincoln won, but the Rebels and Huskies haven’t played since.
While what happened over 50 years ago has no bearing on what will happen tonight, I think it’s cool to say my alma mater has never lost to my dad’s in football. Hey, the last time I couldn’t decide on a winner in a game involving the Rebels I flipped a coin and lost. We’ll see how this weird logic works. West Lincoln 24, Hunter Huss 14.