PUMPKIN CENTER –– Richard Jackson ran for 203 yards and two touchdowns, including a 79-yard score that put this one out of reach as North Lincoln upset Lincolnton 26-13 Friday night in the season opener for both teams.
The Knights (1-0) forced the Wolves (0-1) into three turnovers while committing none themselves, and their defense held Lincolnton without a point in the first 34 minutes of the game.
North Lincoln led 19-0 before Willie Cobb’s 6-yard TD run got Lincolnton on the board with 1:53 to play in the third quarter. Two drives later the Wolves made it a one-score game when freshman quarterback Cordel Littlejohn connected with Quinlyn Harris –– not his intended target –– for a 74-yard TD pass to make it 19-13 with 6:55 to play.
North Lincoln took over at its own 20 after the touchback, and on second-and-nine the Wolves had Jackson pinned in the backfield. But the speedy wingback broke four tackles, all for loss, and sprinted 79 yards to put it away.
It was just the second time in the teams’ 10-year series history the Knights have beaten the Wolves, who lost their season opener for the first time since falling to Maiden in 2004.
Littlejohn, making his varsity debut due to the absence of injured starter Jordon Easter, who was out with a high ankle sprain, completed 7 of his 12 passes for 135 yards and an interception.
Junior Alex Rhyne got the start at quarterback for the Wolves and completed his only pass for 11 yards.
North Lincoln forced the Wolves to turn it over on downs on their first possession after they drove to the Knights 22. The takeaway turned into the game’s first six points 15 plays later when Knights quarterback Chase Caldwell hit Jacob Holley for a 12-yard TD pass at the 11:10 mark of the second quarter.
The score stood until the break, and the Knights took the opening drive of the second half 86 yards for a score when Jackson punched it in from 3 yards out.
After back-to-back blocked PATs by Tyron Roberts North Lincoln led 12-0. Its defense forced a Lincolnton punt, and a 54-yard run by Jackson on first down set up J-Mo Thompson’s 10-yard TD run.
Hayes Irving was able to get the ball up on the PAT this time, and the Knights led 19-0 with 3:17 left in the third.
On the ensuing drive Littlejohn hit Harris, who had four catches for 94 yards, for a 13-yard pickup, and then connected with Chavis Russell for a 22-yard pass to set up Cobb’s 6-yard score which got the Wolves on the board.
After forcing North Lincoln into its third three-and-out of the night, Lincolnton fumbled the punt return attempting to change directions with a handoff. North Lincoln took over at the Wolves 20, and had first-and-goal from the 9, but a goal line stand by the Wolves forced the Knights to punt.
Two plays later Littlejohn threw to Nick Hatchett, but the ball ricocheted off his shoulder pads and into the hands of a wide-open Harris, who went 74 yards for the score and made it 19-13 with 6:55 to play. But Jackson couldn’t be contained on the Knights’ next drive, and his 79-yard TD run effectively ended a seven-game losing streak to Lincolnton.
EAST LINCOLN 35, EAST GASTON 14
DENVER –– Chazz Surratt threw for 210 yards and two TDs, and the Mustangs shook off an ugly first half as they scored 21 unanswered points in the second to win their season opener and beat the Warriors for the third straight time.
East Lincoln (1-0) had three turnovers in the first half alone –– two picks and a fumble by Surratt –– and entered the break tied with East Gaston (0-1) at 14.
Coleton Banks’ 14-yard TD run less than 2 minutes into the second quarter helped break the tie at 21-14. Surratt ran for a 1-yard score early in the fourth quarter, and he threw the second of two TDs passess to his younger brother, Sage, for a 26-yard score with 5:09 to play.
The Mustangs committed 130 yards worth of penalties, but East Gaston threw three interceptions and lost one fumble, which was recovered by Austin Buchanan and returned 13 yards for the game’s first score.
After the Warriors took a 14-7 lead Chazz Surratt hit his brother on a 4-yard pass to tie it with 4:10 left in the first half.
Banks led all rushers with 69 yards on 10 carries. Cameron Dollar had 71 yards on three receptions and Sage Surratt caught six passes for 69 yards.
Chazz Surratt completed 19 of his 25 passes.
WEST LINCOLN 34, VALDESE DRAUGHN 21
VALDESE –– Charles Mack George rushed for 188 yards, and Daniel Schesny scored three TDs as the Rebels won their season opener for the third straight year.
George had a varsity career high 188 yards on 19 carries, including a 55-yard TD run in the fourth quarter to put it away.
Schesny scored on runs of 1 and 12 yards, and had an 80-yard TD reception from junior quarterback Noah Marsh.
Draughn (0-1) got on the board first when Mikeal Turner picked up a fumble and returned it 88 yards for a score. Schesny’s 1-yard TD run tied it, then Hunter Turner returned an interception 80 yards to give West Lincoln (1-0) the lead.
Kevin White’s 5-yard TD run tied it at 14, then Schesny’s 12-yard TD run gave the Rebels a 21-14 lead they didn’t give up.
Lincoln Times-News Sports Editor Ryan Herman, freelance writer Travis Durkee and Morganton News Herald sports writer Jason Baker contributed to this roundup. For more on these games, see Monday’s edition of the Lincoln Times-News.