Above, Wolvesâ€™ running back Dusty Friday lets his little brother Lance Friday lead the way for him during Fridayâ€™s contest. Friday finished with 74 yards on 13 carries and one touchdown.
Right, Mustangsâ€™ quarterback Grayson Schram fires one of his 19 passing attempts. Schram did a little of everything for East Lincoln recording two sacks from his linebacker position and catching a pass for 15 yards. He finished with 67 yards passing.
Joseph Brymer / LTN Photos
In the 31-year history of the East Lincoln-Lincoln football series, this was not one of the memorable games.
It was not even close to the level of last year`s meeting at East Lincoln, a 40-38 shootout won by the Wolves.
In fact, Friday night`s installment at Lincolnton Memorial Stadium featured only one scoring drive of any consequence, and that came on the opening series.
The defensive coaches for both teams saw plenty to please them, but it was a yawner for the fans as the Wolves slugged out a 12-0 victory to extend their edge in the series to 26-5.
There was no scoring in the second half, and only one touchdown produced by an offensive unit. Lincolnton`s second touchdown was set up by a blocked punt.
Both coaches tried to put a positive spin on the contest, except when the question of offensive production came up.
“I can`t put the blame on any one individual,” said Lincolnton coach Scott Cloninger after his offense was held to 148 total yards. “It`s the coach for sure, which is me, and everybody else. We have to go back and work and try to find something we can do (on offense) and be successful.”
East Lincoln`s offensive woes went deeper. The Mustangs were shut for the second week in a row by a county rival, and their lone TD of 2004 came in the opener against Bandys.
The Mustangs (0-3) were slightly outgained, 148-132, and they could not cash in on two chances in the red zone.
Coach Matt Rikard summed up the frustrating night.
“In the third quarter, we were making a drive, and it`s third and two. We jumped offsides, and then it was third and seven. When you do that, that changes play selction,” Rikard said.
And so it went for East Lincoln, which had nine penalties for 55 yards and a turnnover in the Lincolnton end zone as the first half ended.
On the other hand, for fans of defensive football, this was a gourmet`s delight. East Lincoln pressured Lincolnton QB Zack Gibson all night, sacking him four times in the first half and five for the game.
In addition, the Mustangs forced Gibson to keep the ball most of the time on the option. Instead of Dusty Friday or Darrell Friday getting the touches, Gibson was the primary ball carrier.
“They made Zack keep the ball instead of a back or swing man. He read it, and he had to keep it. East Lincoln did a good job of making the one person who will not hurt you keep the ball,” Cloninger said.
The pressure from East was not unrelenting, Gibson attempted only eight passes, completing three for 40 yards.
“We put extra people in, but we were still breaking down a little,” said Cloninger of the pass blocking, which has allowed eight sacks in the last two games.
The one time the Wolves did not break down was on the opening series, in which the home team put together a 10-play, 78-yard touchdown drive.
Dusty Friday, who led all rushers with 74 yards on 13 carries, ran 11 yards on a sweep to cap the six-minute march.
At that point, the Wolves (2-1) looked to be in for a breakout game on offense. But East Lincoln forced a punt on Lincolnton`s next possession, and it became a game of dominant defenses.
A big play in the kicking game set up the second Lincolnton score. Midway through the second quarter, defensive end Kyle Snyder went in unnoticed and blocked a punt. The Wolves got the ball at the East Lincoln 4.
On the ensuing series, the Mustangs almost made a goal-line stand, but Gibson scored on fourth and one to make it 12-0.
Another key moment came just before the half ended. The Mustangs got the ball at the Lincolnton 29 after Gibson, the punter, fumbled a snap and had to settle for a 10-yard loss.
A 15-yard penalty moved the ball to the Wolves` 14. However, as time expired Jeremy Smith intercepted Grayson Schram`s pass in the end zone.
The Mustangs gave no indication they could rally for most of the uneventful second half. However, on their final possession, Schram completed five straight passes to drive East inside the 20.
But once again, Lincolnton`s defense, which Cloninger described as “bend, but don`t break,” turned back the threat as Schram threw incomplete on fourth down at the 17.
Roger Rojas, an interior lineman, and Derek Butler recorded sacks for Lincolnton. Tavarus Freedom, a 5-11, 190-pound senior, seemed to be everywhere on defense for East. He had two sacks and a couple of hurries.
Schram, who doubled on defense at linebacker, also had a pair of sacks.
“Defensively, we did a wonderful job and played a wonderful game. We just have to make some improvements on offense,” Rikard said.
The bottom line is, both teams do.
by Mike Powell