NL at LHS Football

North Lincoln and Lincolnton battled it out on the gridiron Friday night at Memorial Stadium. The Knights came away with a hard-fought 28-18 victory.

Rivalry games don’t always live up to their expectations, but Friday night’s North Lincoln at Lincolnton contest sure did.

In a game that had two fourth-quarter lead changes, the Knights outlasted the Wolves 28-18 for their fourth-straight win in the series on a hot, humid night at Memorial Stadium in Lincolnton.

After sophomore quarterback Andre Bost’s one-yard touchdown run gave the Wolves their first lead of the game, North Lincoln answered with a 68-yard drive capped by a Brennen Rogers 4-yard scoring run that gave the Knights the lead for good.

North Lincoln tacked on a late score on a 3-yard quarterback keeper by Kyle Kovalchuk with just 19 seconds remaining to seal the victory over rival Lincolnton and even the Knights’ record at 1-1.

Kovalchuk, a senior, scored three times on the night, including runs of four and two yards in the first half. The North Lincoln signal caller ran for a game-high 104 yards on 12 carries, including the three scores.

His 4-yard scoring run in the opening quarter, coupled with a Reed King 2-point conversion run, gave the Knights an 8-0 lead late in the first quarter. The touchdown was set up by a Timmy Schafer blocked punt that was recovered at the Lincolnton 4-yard line. Schafer would later haul in a 68-yard pass from Kovalchuk that would set up the go-ahead touchdown.

Bernard Wingate’s 10-yard touchdown run pulled the Wolves to within 8-6 early in the second period, but Kovalchuk’s 2-yard plunge extended North’s lead to 15-7 just before halftime.

Lincolnton’s Eian Stancil broke a long scoring run of 59 yards midway through the third quarter to make it a 15-12 contest, before the one-yard TD run by Bost gave the Wolves their short lived lead at the 10:52 mark of the fourth period.

Bost would lead Lincolnton offensively with 11 carries for 90 yards and a score, while throwing for 102 yards on five of 11 passing. Stancil ran for 80 yards on 13 carries with a touchdown.

In addition to Kovalchuk’s big night, North Lincoln’s Rogers had 11 carries for 60 yards and a score, and Liam Sutton added 67 yards on the ground on nine carries.

The contest was played very evenly in two of the three phases of the game, but North Lincoln had an advantage on special teams. The Knights blocked a Lincolnton punt that set up a score, and the Wolves were 0 for 3 on extra points.

Lincolnton was also hampered by penalties, getting flagged 13 times for 125 yards.

After picking up their first win of the young season, the Knights will have their home opener this Friday when they host Northwest Cabarrus. The Wolves will face their second-straight county rival when they travel to East Lincoln. 


Rebels adjust, cruise past


Mike Powell - Special to the LTN

CHERRYVILLE— Rivalry games are sometimes difficult to predict even when one team comes in as the favorite. Emotions and the ability to play inspired football figure into the equation.

In Friday night’s renewal of the West Lincoln-Cherryville feud before a good crowd at Rudisill Stadium, West Lincoln was cast in the favorite’s role and Cherryville played the underdog.

And for the first half at least, the theme of a team rising to the occasion held sway. In fact, the Ironmen jumped out to a 7-0 first quarter lead after taking advantage of a breakdown in the West Lincoln kicking game.

Later in the half, the score was tied at 7, and the Rebels needed an unlikely touchdown pass with 0:00 showing on the clock to go into intermission ahead, 13-7.

Unfortunately for the Ironmen, the Rebels’ ability to play the clock just right proved to be a turning point. West Lincoln (2-0) came out in the second half and dominated the rest of the game, cleaning up some first-half execution issues and playing air-tight defense for a 27-7 win.

How tough was West Lincoln on defense? After the Ironmen took their 7-0 lead on a 12-yard pass from Chase Miller to Landon Hahn, the air went out of the Cherryville offense.

Cherryville’s next seven possessions went as follows: interception, interception, punt, punt, loss of downs, punt, and fumble.

Meanwhile, the Rebels got their ball-control running game in gear after fumbling four times in the first 24 minutes and losing one of them.

While senior running back Mason Avery did not match his splashy opening night against North Lincoln (34-for-243), he churned out 180 yards on 25 carries and softened up the Ironmen’s interior defense.

In addition, West Lincoln quarterback Jordan Truesdale made several sparkling plays. The 6-1, 165-pound junior ran 11 yards on a keeper for a second-quarter touchdown.

Even more impressive was Truesdale’s execution of the option on two plays in the second half. His timing on an option pitch to Trace Gilmore resulted in a 25-yard scoring run around the right side in the third.

Midway through the fourth, Truesdale extended an option play even farther, running about five yards past the line of scrimmage before tossing to Gilmore, who found an open field for a 43-yard scoring run, the game’s longest play from scrimmage.

“He ran it well,” West Lincoln coach Darren Ponder said of Truesdale’s handling of the offense. “He pulled the ball at the right time and made his reads well. He’s learning. It’s his first year on the varsity, and he’s getting better every week.”

According to Ponder, some of the Rebels’ execution problems early may have been the result of limited practice time in the heat. “We didn’t get to go live at all, and one day we were out there in helmets only. We may have to go to evening practice next week,” he said.

One area of the game the Rebels did not seem rusty in was defense. The West Lincoln defense refused to budge in the run game, limiting the Ironmen (1-1) to 32 net yards rushing on 30 attempts. In the first half, Trent Goins and Nathan Rye intercepted passes on two straight Cherryville possessions.

Linebacker Zach Daigler led the way in total defensive stats with eight tackles (one for loss) along with a forced fumble. Nathan Kester contributed six tackles, two assists and a sack, while Avery and Patrick Goins chipped in four tackles each. Curtis Goins played well in the interior of the defense with five tackles, including two for losses.

On the play that sent the Rebels into the half with a world of momentum, Truesdale rolled to his left as the final seconds ticked down and completed a 15-yard touchdown pass to Mason Avery, who is not only the workhorse running back but the team’s most effective receiver coming out of the backfield over the first two games.

Placekicker Trista Primmer, who was 2-for-2 in extra points last week, missed the PAT attempt wide right after Avery’s score, but the Rebels had all the points they would need. Primmer is believed to be the first female player to score a point in Lincoln County varsity football history.


Mustangs hold off Forestview

Joe Hughes - Gaston Gazette

CRAMERTON — At some point in the season, David Lubowicz figured his East Lincoln football team would come face-to-face with adversity. Though he’d prefer to avoid such if at all possible, the Mustangs’ head man is somewhat relieved to learn of his team’s mental toughness in the season’s early stages rather than later.

Down 10-7 to Forestview at halftime Saturday night, a rejuvenated East Lincoln squad dominated the game’s final 24 minutes to claim a 31-17 win at Stuart Cramer High School Stadium.

“It’s always hard at the start of a season because you don’t know exactly how your team will respond with its back against the wall,” Lubowicz said. “We didn’t really face too much adversity (at Hibriten) Week 1. So at halftime we just talked to them about ‘What do you decide? What will you decide in the second half?’ And to our kids’ credit, they came out and did that.”

Turning point: Unable to finish drives for the better part of three quarters, a single pass completion turned the tide in East Lincoln’s favor.

Facing second-and-9 from its own 42 early in the third, Mustang quarterback Tyler Mizzell connected with wideout Markell Clark on a 30-yard pass play. Three plays later, star linebacker and bruising ball carrier Ben Cutter scampered around right end to reach the end zone and put East Lincoln ahead to stay.

Mizzell completed 13-of-20 passes for 227 yards and three touchdowns, each of them to Clark.

Star of the game: Clark; along with touchdown catches of 51, 8 and 20 yards, the East Lincoln wideout finished with 10 catches for 176 yards as well.

Notes: East Lincoln’s Jaxon Sellers connected on a 20-yard field goal to start the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game. ... The Mustangs lost receiver Keandre Walker to a knee injury in the second half. However, the junior standout doesn’t believe the injury to be too serious. ... Camury Reid’s leaping one-handed grab and dazzling run to the end zone tied things at 7-all in the second quarter. Myles Jackson also scored for the Jaguars on a 2-yard run in the fourth. ... In addition to being his team’s top tackler, Jaycob Neely also serves as Forestview’s special teams ace. Adding punting duties to his checklist this season, the Jaguar standout blocked a punt and an extra point in Saturday’s contest. For the senior linebacker, it was the third blocked punt of his prep career.

(Published August 27, 2021)

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