By RYAN HERMAN
REIDSVILLE –– With his team down two scores at the half, Lincolnton head coach Scott Cloninger got exactly what he wanted in the second.
The end result he wanted just wasn’t meant to be.
Junior quarterback Devante Williams was a one-man show for Reidsville, with 284 total yards and a pair of passing touchdowns as the Rams held off the Wolves’ second-half rally to win 13-10 in a NCHSAA state 2A third round playoff game on Friday.
Fourth-seeded Reidsville (12-2) will host Shelby, a 45-21 winner over North Rowan, in the Western Regional championship later this week.
The Wolves (9-5) trailed 13-0 at halftime, and had an opportunity to tie it with a field goal late.
But the ball never really got off the ground.
“We were down 13-0 at the half and we came back and made it interesting,” Cloninger said. “A break here and a break there and we’re still playing (but) it just wasn’t meant to be tonight.”
A 28-yard TD run by Justice Charles and Graham Willis’ 28-yard field goal, both late in the third quarter, had the 18-time state champion on its heels.
For just the second time all game Lincolnton forced Reidsville into a three-and-out on its next drive. The Wolves took over at their own 29 after the punt, and went 61 yards on 10 rushes to set up third-and-8 at the Reidsville 10.
Hoping to tie it with Willis’ second field goal, quarterback Jordon Easter was sacked 7 yards in the backfield, turning a 27-yard chip shot into a 34-yard attempt with about 7 minutes left.
The ball barely cleared the line and never reached the end zone.
“It was a little bit out of his range. We gave (up) a sack that cost us dearly. Dearly. That was probably the turning point of the game,” Cloninger said.
The Rams then went 79 yards in eight plays, including a 53-yard run by Williams, to set up second-and-goal for the Lincolnton 1. But they fumbled with 3:30 to play –– their third turnover of the game.
The Wolves recovered and with one shot left at their second big playoff upset in as many weeks, couldn’t do anything with it. In fact, they shot themselves in the foot with a procedure penalty –– just their third penalty of the game –– that negated a 46-yard completed pass between Easter and Nick Hatchett that would have given them a first down at the Reidsville 33 with 2:36 to go.
Two more tackles for loss, including an 11-yard loss on a pass from Easter to Chavis Russell, gave the Rams the ball at the Lincolnton 10.
With no timeouts left, Reidsville took two knees and celebrated its 10th trip to the round of four in the last 12 seasons.
“They killed us. They killed our momentum,” Cloninger said of the negative plays. “We moved the ball well.”
With his offense struggling save for a few big plays Reidsville coach Jimmy Teague, in his second stint with the Rams and has more than 200 career wins in Reidsville, saw his defense rise to the occasion.
“We tried to give it away,” Reidsville coach Jimmy Teague said. “The defense, I tell you what, they played well against a tough bunch of guys. We stopped them when we needed to stop them.”
Save for four big plays, his defense did about as well as Cloninger could have hoped.
Williams, who completed 7 of his 11 pass attempts for 169 yards and the two scores, and rushed for 115 yards, accounted for four plays of at least 53 yards.
The junior hit Eric Poteat on a 67-yard scoring strike to go up 7-0 midway through the first quarter. He then made it 13-0 on a 61-yard TD pass to Noel Cook with 2:15 to play before the break.
Other than that, Lincolnton’s defense held an offense that averaged more than 400 yards per game during the regular season to 369 and to its lowest point total of the year.
“They’re a real good team and we controlled them,” Cloninger said.
Charles had a team-high 94 yards on 19 carries and an interception, and he also recovered the late fumble by the Rams.
But a handful of mistakes early and late were too much to overcome.
“We made some mistakes early. Our kids gave us an effort,” Cloninger said. “They gave us heart and played as hard as they could. That’s just how the ball bounced tonight.”