By RYAN HERMAN
And then there were two.
East Lincoln and Lincolnton are the only two Lincoln County high school football teams still standing after the first round of the state playoffs, and both have difficult tasks in front on them heading into the second round.
The Mustangs face a team they’ve already beaten once this season –– and soundly –– but it’s hard to beat the same team twice in a season in football.
The Wolves will face their fourth state-ranked opponent of the season, which is telling in and of itself.
They’ve lost to the previous three. Can they right the ship against the fourth?
MAIDEN (11-1) at EAST LINCOLN (8-4): Oh how easy it would be to just say East Lincoln by 42, considering it won the last meeting between these two 42-0 just a few weeks ago. But this is a different day with a different set of circumstances.
The Mustangs have shown they can beat just about anybody and stop just about anyone. They have the best defense in the Southern District 7 Athletic 2A Conference in total yards allowed (2,788 on the season), rush yards allowed (1,411) and points allowed (180 overall, 74 in league play). They also have the league’s most dynamic offensive player in sophomore quarterback Chazz Surratt, who has unofficial season totals of 1,574 yards and 32 touchdowns rushing, and 2,076 yards and 23 TDs passing. He has accounted for nearly 77 percent of his team’s league-best 4,761 total yards.
Maiden showed against Lincolnton two weeks ago that if it can establish the running game, then it can keep teams off balance because of its passing threat (the Blue Devils are the best passing team in the SD-7). Against the Wolves they had their second-best rushing game with 171 yards.
On Nov. 1 Maiden managed just 24 yards rushing. Twenty-four. While several injuries in East Lincoln’s defense could allow more than two-dozen rush yards to the Blue Devils tonight, it is just as effective at stopping the pass. East Lincoln 35, Maiden 21.
LINCOLNTON (8-4) at WINSTON-SALEM CARVER (11-1): I don’t have any key stats to prove how potent the Yellow Jackets’ offense is or how powerful its defense can be, but a team that hasn’t lost since the season opener has to be good.
Lincolnton is on the road in the playoffs for the second straight week, which is the seventh time that’s happened under head coach Scott Cloninger. The Wolves have won back-to-back road games in the postseason just once –– in 2007, when they won their last state championship.
A Lincolnton win isn’t completely out of the question, but it’ll take a complete game from the Wolves coupled with a few turnovers from Carver. Carver 27, Lincolnton 14.