LHS finds success in new ‘O’
When Lincolnton’s football team found it tough to move the football in a big-time game, coach Scott Cloninger made a few changes and they worked.
The same happened last week when the Wolves traveled to Belmont South Point, and again, the changes paid off.
After struggling in its season opener without its starting quarterback, Lincolnton tinkered with its offense last week and came out in a straight T offense Cloninger called the “Big Bone” against the Red Raiders, and won 14-13.
The up-the-middle, down-your-throat offense worked like a charm. It’s designed not only to use a team’s offensive size and power to score, but to work as a second defense to keep the clock running the ball away from the opponent.
The strategy worked last fall when the Wolves (1-1) upset top-seeded Winston-Salem Carver in the second round of the state playoffs.
It also worked against a team they’ve struggled against historically.
“That’s what saved us at Carver,” Cloninger said. “It’s one of these things that we’ll play with the rest of the year. We’ll just tinker with it. It’s a good offense to offset the other team and to make them work a little bit harder on different things.”
Headed to Michigan for his ability to rush the quarterback, defensive end Darian Roseboro took over at fullback last week, and used his 6-foot-5, 285-pound body to bulldoze his way to 97 yards and both touchdowns on 20 carries. Bulky running backs Willie Cobb (15 carries, 78 yards) and Tarus Dameron (eight carries, 30 yards) also used their size behind a big offensive line, and the Wolves held the ball for 20 minutes, 17 seconds in the first half while South Point (0-2) had it for 3:43.
“Sometimes the best defense is the best offense,” Cloninger said.
Cloninger said he talked to some coaches at perennial 1A powerhouse Warsaw Kenan, which runs a similar offense, and then added his own flair to the simple, yet effective form of moving the football.
The decision to go from the tradition I-formation to this was not having junior quarterback Jordon Easter for a second straight game.
Easter has been out with a high ankle sprain, and his absence was felt in the Wolves’ 26-13 season-opening loss at North Lincoln.
“Without Jordon and knowing our troubles at North Lincoln, we decided to run a straight T backfield and play some power football,” Cloninger said. “It’s a simple offense. It’s a power offense. And for some of our big linemen, it’s perfect for them.
“We’re just trying to wait on Jordon to get healthy so that we can run our offense.”
Cloninger said Easter has taken about 50 percent of the snaps this week in practice, and that a decision will be made Friday prior to Lincolnton’s game against North Gaston if he’ll make his season debut or miss his third straight game.
“He’s probably a game-day decision whether he’ll be able to go or not,” Cloninger said.
For years the Wolves ran an option-type offense, and a year ago this week implemented a new I-formation.
Now, they’re trying new things again.
“We’ve fine-tuned it, and studied the best way to run some things out of it,” Cloninger said.
East Lincoln is ranked sixth statewide among schools in the 2A classification in a pair of well-respected polls.
The Associated Press high school football poll made its 2014 season debut on Tuesday, and the Mustangs are ranked sixth in the 2A poll as voted on by a panel of prep sportswriters across the state. Shelby is ranked first and Newton-Conover 10th.
East Lincoln is also ranked sixth in this week’s NCPreps.com’s Baker’s Dozen 2A poll.
So are the Knights
North Lincoln’s upset win over Lincolnton in Week 1 got it into the polls, and its win over West Lincoln last week kept it in.
The Knights remained ranked 13th in the latest NCPreps.com’s Baker’s Dozen 3A poll. North Lincoln (2-0) is tied with Weddington (2-0) this week, after making its debut in the polls last week.
Too many turnovers
Although East Lincoln is off to a 2-0 start, is ranked, and has outscored its opponents 69-32, it has been plagued by turnovers.
The Mustangs committed three turnovers in a 35-14 win over East Gaston in Week 1, and committed five turnovers in last week’s 34-18 win over the Q Foundation.
East Lincoln is even in the takeaway department, however. East Gaston had four turnovers in Week 1, and the Q Foundation had four last week.
The Mustangs have lost four fumbles and quarterback Chazz Surratt has thrown four interceptions. But Surratt has made up for his picks by throwing for 429 yards and seven touchdowns in the first two games.
East Lincoln’s defense has only allowed five TDs.
While the giveaways have piled up on East Lincoln, North Lincoln has been as stingy as possible in its 2-0 start.
The Knights, off to their best start since 2004 and looking to go 3-0 for the first time in school history against East Lincoln this week, have committed zero turnovers thus far.
North Lincoln hasn’t thrown an interception –– it’s only attempted six passes –– nor has it dropped the football, much less lost a fumble. At the same time, the Knights’ defense has five takeaways in wins against Lincolnton and at West Lincoln.
“That’s the key,” North Lincoln coach David Maness said.
A bad night
North Lincoln’s defense held West Lincoln to 72 total yards in the second half on Friday, and in turn the Rebels had their worst rushing performance since their final game of the 2012 season.
West Lincoln, which rushed for 150 yards and was held to a total of minus-4 yards after opening the second half with a 76-yard scoring drive, had its fewest rushing yards since gaining 143 yards in a 69-15 loss at South Iredell in the first round of the 2012 2AA state playoffs, according to statistics kept and shared by the Gaston Gazette. Its lowest prior to that was 127 rushing yards in a 13-7 loss to Cherryville on Sept. 30, 2011.
West Lincoln, which lost last week’s game 20-7 after the Knights scored three unanswered touchdowns, gained 332 yards on the ground in a Week 1 win at Valdese Draughn. The Rebels also entered the season averaging a Southern District 7 Athletic 2A Conference-best 291.8 yards rushing in 2013.
Run, run, run, pass
North Lincoln’s 2-0 start has, offensively, come from running the football.
The Knights have rushed 94 times for a total of 581 yards in their first two games, while attempting only six passes –– one last week.
North Lincoln coach David Maness knows as the season progresses that 94 percent rush rate will have to decrease if his team is to continue the streak its on.
“We’ve got a few more things to work on, yet. We’ve got to be able to throw some out of (the single-wing),” he said. “We haven’t been forced to do that yet, but I know we’re going to have to … if we’re going to be a good football team.”
A new cannon
West Lincoln hasn’t stolen a page out of East Lincoln’s playbook, but the Rebels are showing they’re more than a one-dimensional team behind quarterback Noah Marsh.
The junior has shown his ability to throw the ball, and, at times, the Rebels are letting him do it. Marsh completed 4 of 8 passes against North Lincoln for 53 yards on Friday, with three of those coming in succession and of at least eight yards each to set up their first score.
Marsh was 3 of 8 passing for 92 yards at Draughn in Week 1, and already has nearly as many yards passing in two games (145) as the Rebels had during the entire non-conference portion of their schedule last season (148).
“Noah can throw the ball more,” West Lincoln coach Tom Sain said. “We still like to run the football … but that’s something we’re trying to add.”