By RYAN HERMAN
The last time Lincoln County had two high school football teams play on the road in the third round of the state playoffs was just over six years ago. And they both won.
Just like they’ll do tonight, East Lincoln and Lincolnton last played a third round game away from their home fields on Nov. 23, 2007. The Mustangs won at Newton-Conover in overtime, 23-17, and the Wolves took down host Wilkes Central 29-26.
The following week the two teams met in the postseason for the first time ever. A week later Lincolnton won its second and last state title.
Those same circumstances can’t happen this year because the Mustangs are in the 2AA bracket and Lincolnton is in the 2A bracket. But if they keep winning then the county could see another first –– two state football champions in the same year.
EAST LINCOLN (9-4) at MONROE (11-2): The Mustangs are playing a playoff game away from home for the first time since Round 1 of the 2011 postseason, and it comes against a team that head coach Mike Byus described as being “faaast.” Speed or no speed, East Lincoln’s defense has had no trouble stopping anyone this season. In a league as tough as the Southern District 7 Athletic 2A Conference –– six of its eight teams made the playoffs –– the Mustangs held opponents to fewer than 240 yards and 15 points per game in winning 12 of their 13 games on the field. East Lincoln 42, Monroe 21.
LINCOLNTON (9-4) at REIDSVILLE (11-2): In 2001 the ninth-seeded Wolves went to Reidsville in the first round of the state 2A playoffs as a heavy underdog. They returned home that night looking ahead to the second round.
That’s the only time the two teams have met –– Lincolnton won 31-7 –– and it went on to reach the regional finals that year before falling to eventual state runner-up Burlington Cummings. The Wolves find themselves in familiar territory tonight and at the same place. All the numbers point to a Rams blowout. Reidsville is averaging over 100 yards of offense more than Lincolnton, and is holding its opponents to nearly 60 fewer yards per game. It’s also averaging two more touchdowns per game than the Wolves. But Lincolnton showed last week that stats and seeds don’t matter. Lincolnton 21, Reidsville 20.