Lincoln Co. is poised for one of the biggest football games in the last five years. On Friday, the West Lincoln Rebels will visit Lincoltonâ€™s Memorial Stadium at Von Ray Harris Field to take on the Lincolnton Wolves.
With so many people expected, Wolvesâ€™ head coach Scott Cloninger believes fans should purchase their tickets in advance. Tickets for the game are available at Byrdâ€™s Sundries, Lincoln Athletics and at Lincolnton High School.
So what does Lincolnton need to do on offense to beat the unblemished Rebels according to Cloninger? â€œWe have to score some points. I think all of us are going to have to step up and play a better game,â€ he said.
An ongoing and reoccurring theme for the Wolves has been inconsistency. Cloninger believes that inconsistency falls on every player. â€œI canâ€™t point that finger at any one person. Itâ€™s a team effort and for us to win the game weâ€™re going to have to play as a team.â€
To protect their home field, Lincolnton will need to take care of the football and eliminate sloppy play. â€œWe have to cut down on mistakes. Mental and physical mistakes need to be reduced,â€ Cloninger said.
One of West Lincolnâ€™s calling card on offense is their ability to move the football in the air and on the ground; a point not missed by Cloninger. â€œTheyâ€™re pretty well-balanced. They can run it or throw it. What weâ€™re hoping we can do is slow them down. What weâ€™re going to try to do is take away their best plays. If we can do that, then we feel like we can slow them,â€ he said.
The Rebelsâ€™ backfield is a point of emphasis for the Wolves on defense. Rebelsâ€™ running back Gene Arp has rushed for over 350 yards in his last three contests. Paul Chambers has also had a huge impact running the ball.
Cloninger recognizes their skill but is more concerned about a player that has been nursing a sprained ankle in senior tailback Will Tallent.
â€œTheyâ€™re both hard-nosed young men who enjoy running the football. Thereâ€™s a Tallent kid whoâ€™s been injured who is just as good as them in my opinion, so they have a triple threat at the running back,â€ he said.
Another key for the home team will be running a ball-control type of offense. â€œWeâ€™re just going to have to contain them and be able to control the ball a little bit to be able to offset their offense,â€ Cloninger said.
Cloninger is already excited about the rivalry game and hopes his players feel the same way. â€œWhenever you come out Friday night and the hair on the back of your neck doesnâ€™t stand up as a player or a coach, then you donâ€™t deserve to be thereâ€”when the lights come on,â€ he said.
The coach likens Friday nightâ€™s matchup to a boxing match believing whoever can maintain their composure and stick with the game plan will be victorious. â€œI feel like itâ€™s going to be a title fight. There are going to be people that take some blows and youâ€™re going to stagger a little bit, but youâ€™re going to have to stay on your feet. Youâ€™re going to have to understand that when you get knocked down youâ€™re going to have to get right back up,â€ Cloninger said.
â€œItâ€™s going to be a tough football game and you better be prepared for the good and bad. I feel that whoever handles that the best will come out on top,â€ he added.
West Lincoln Rebels
Life is good for the West Lincoln Rebels sitting on top of the Midwest 2A mountaintop with a perfect 4-0 record. But a win over their biggest rival the Lincolnton Wolves would make life even better.
Rebelsâ€™ head coach Butch Parker believes a big key in Fridayâ€™s game will be running the football effectively.
â€œWe have to control the ball. We have to do what we do best and thatâ€™s run the football,â€ he said.
Parker speaks very highly of the Wolvesâ€™ defense believing they donâ€™t struggle in many areas.
â€œThey have so few weaknesses defensively that we have to make some things work that will give us the best chance to score some points,â€ he said.
Some characteristics stick out to Parker when watching film.
â€œThey are quick to the ball, aggressive to the ball and they present two outstanding defensive ends (Kyle Snyder and Wesley Thompson) and their linebackers can just run so well.â€
The Rebels will receive a boost in leadership and on the field with Will Tallent expected to return from a sprained ankle. He is believed to be at 85 percent entering Fridayâ€™s game. The combination of Tallent and Gene Arp with the hard running of Paul â€˜the Bruiserâ€™ Chambers will present the Lincolnton defense with a stiff challenge.
Parker knows that the big play has hurt West Lincoln in the past. This season,heâ€™s hoping to stop such players as junior QB Zack Gibson and the Friday trio (Dustin, Lance and Darrell) at running back.
â€œThe first thing we got to do is stop the big play. Thatâ€™s a Lincolnton tradition and we have to stop it. It starts with Gibsonâ€” heâ€™s a very talented quarterback, then the Friday family (everyone of them can run). We have to stop the vaunted Lincolnton sweep,â€ he said.
Is Parker surprised with his offenseâ€™s play, led by sophomore quarterback Taylor Woodie and the yards theyâ€™ve been able to muster on the ground?
â€œWeâ€™re very pleased with what theyâ€™ve done. Surprisedâ€” no, because once again we returned that many skill people and we thought they were capable of that. Thatâ€™s all immaterial against Lincolnton because itâ€™s a Midwest Conference game and all of those numbers are pretty well a moot point right now.â€
A significant factor for the Rebels will be whether or not theyâ€™ll be able to overcome the mental block they seem to have when it comes to facing Lincolnton.
â€œItâ€™s the mental and emotional factor. Weâ€™re treating it as a huge game, itâ€™s got every imaginable level of excitement. Lincolnton is our biggest rival, itâ€™s the first chance to go 5-0 in a long time, itâ€™s the first conference game and a win there would insure us a playoff berth. Itâ€™s going to have a great big crowd,â€ Parker said.
â€œItâ€™s a big, big football game. Now if they wonâ€™t to call it routine or not, thatâ€™s up to them. I choose not to,â€ Parker added.
The coach believes that whichever team can maintain their discipline and game plan the best will win.
â€œWhen it reaches a crescendo then it comes down to execution. Whoever can execute outside the realm of the emotional aspect, I feel will win the game.â€
by John Mark Brooks