By RYAN HERMAN
Lincoln County has had a high school football team compete for a state championship the past two seasons.
Tonight begins a run at a third.
Defending state 2A champion East Lincoln, 2011 2A state runner-up Lincolnton and West Lincoln open their respective playoff runs tonight at 7:30.
The Mustangs will host Southern District 7 Athletic 2A Conference foe Bandys while the Wolves will travel to Thomasville and the Rebels to Hunter Huss.
Here is a look at all three matchups:
BANDYS at EAST LINCOLN
The 14th-seeded Trojans (5-6) head to third-seeded East Lincoln (7-4) for the teams’ second meeting this season.
The Mustangs, in the 2AA West bracket this year, used a huge third quarter to break open a tight game at Bandys and win 55-26 in the conference opener on Sept. 27. Since a second quarter in which East Lincoln allowed 19 points in that game, its defense has only allowed a total of 55 points and is first in the league in yards allowed at 229.3 per game.
The Mustangs broke that game open by scoring 27 points in the third quarter, and their offense is also tops in the league in scoring (40.2) and yards per game (401.2).
Chazz Surratt, East Lincoln’s do-it-all quarterback, finished the regular season second in rushing (128.4 yards per game) and passing (183.9 yards per game), but has 52 total touchdowns and a league-best 3,435 total yards of offense.
Bandys has the league’s third-best offense at 337.6 yards per game and is second in passing at 188.3 yards per game. Logan Beegle threw for 1,261 yards and 15 TDs in 10 games.
Before the meeting in September the teams hadn’t met in a conference game since the two were part of the old SD-7 from 1977-80. East Lincoln has won seven of the last eight meetings, with Bandys’ last win coming in 2011. The teams have met once in the state playoffs, with East Lincoln winning 37-20 in the third round of the 2AA playoffs on its way to the 2008 state title game.
Tonight’s winner gets either Maiden or Forbush in the second round.
LINCOLNTON at THOMASVILLE
The ninth-seeded Wolves (7-4) and the eighth-seeded Bulldogs (5-6) have become quite familiar with each other of late, as this is the third straight year the two teams have met in the state playoffs.
Lincolnton, which is in the 2A West bracket, lost in the second round at Thomasville 55-14 last year, and in 2011 the Wolves knocked the Bulldogs out in the fourth round 26-0 on their way to the 2A title game.
This year Thomasville comes in having won four of its last five games, with its only loss a 40-0 setback to unbeaten and top-ranked North Rowan. Lincolnton is on a similar streak, having won four straight and six of seven until last week’s 42-14 setback at Maiden.
Another similarity is the teams’ scheduling. The Bulldogs’ regular season schedule featured six teams with winning records, and its 11 opponents have a combined .608 win percentage. Of Lincolnton’s 11 opponents, seven have records of .500 or better, including three that are ranked in the Associated Press’ top 10 –– East Lincoln, Maiden and South Point.
Both teams are also well-balanced offensively. Thomasville’s Demoris Payne has 638 rushing yards on the year and D.J. Spann has 562. Lincolnton has no 600-yard rushers, but has three with at least 528 yards –– Chavis Russell (545), Justice Charles (529) and Jordon Easter (528).
The teams have only met in the state playoffs, and have met four times. Each team has two wins.
Tonight’s winner gets either Lake Norman Charter or Winston-Salem Carver in the second round.
WEST LINCOLN at HUNTER HUSS
The 12th-seeded Rebels (7-4) and fifth-seeded Huskies (4-7) meet tonight with both trying to end several years of futility.
For West Lincoln, which is in the playoffs for the fourth straight year, it is trying to win its first state playoff game in its sixth try while Hunter Huss is gunning for its first postseason win since 2006.
The schools opened the same year –– 1962 –– and played their first football game against each other, which West Lincoln won 21-7. They then opened the 1963 season against each other, which the Rebels won 6-0. But they haven’t met since.
West Lincoln, which has dropped three in a row –– its longest such streak since losing the last four games of 2009 –– trails Bunker Hill by 44 yards for the SD-7’s best rushing team during the regular season. Daniel Davila is third in the league in rushing at 1,189 yards while teammate Miguel Corella is right behind him at 1,125 yards. As a team the Rebels average 292 rushing yards per game.
The Huskies have won three of the last four games, including a 24-20 win over Gastonia Forestview, and are led by senior running back Kerrion Moore.
Moore, the MVP of the 2011 state boys basketball title game as a freshman, is averaging 129.8 yards per game for an offense that generates 299.2 total yards per game and has 17 total TDs.
The Rebels finished the regular season second in the SD-7 against the run at 145.1 yards allowed per game.
Tonight’s winner gets either Ashe County or Bunker Hill in the second round.
The Thomasville Times and the Gaston Gazette contributed to this story.