DENVER—It seemed like a case of déjà vu Friday night at David C. Clark Stadium.
In a game that looked a lot like the one East Lincoln played on Nov. 11 against Tuscola, the Mustangs rolled past Ledford 28-7 in the third round of the state 3A playoffs.
For the second straight week, East Lincoln took a 21-0 lead into the half and never looked back. The Mustangs were dominant on defense and efficient on offense.
Two weeks ago, the East Lincoln defense corralled Tuscola running back Dez Rodriguez, holding him to a rushing total 80 yards below his per game average.
Friday night, Ledford dual threat quarterback Nate Carr fared no better. His glossy per game average of 261 yards running and passing took a major hit.
The East Lincoln defense sacked Carr five times and limited the prolific quarterback to 23 yards rushing and 77 yards passing.
On the other side of the ball, the Mustangs took advantage of favorable field position and scored on three of their first four possessions. That’s what they did against Tuscola too.
Sophomore running back Chris Daley had another big night, carrying for 134 yards and a touchdown. He picked up 144 yards on the ground versus Tuscola.
Ben Cutter, so valuable on defense for the Mustangs, continued to contribute on offense. He carried five times for 31 yards and scored on a one-yard run.
Quarterback Tyler Mizzell battled against a strong pass rush most of the night, but completed 11 of 17 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. He used his legs on several occasions to avoid sacks and keep drives alive.
Just as Tuscola struggled with kicking woes and miserable field position against East Lincoln, the same fate befell Ledford (11-2).
For example, on their second possession the Panthers ran eight plays before being forced to punt. But the punt netted exactly one yard. The Mustangs gained possession at the Ledford 37 and went on to score.
Ledford, which entered the game averaging 45 points per contest, finally got a break in the third quarter. The Panthers took over at the East Lincoln 41 after a short punt, and Carr scored from two yards out on the final play of the period.
It was 21-7 at that point, but the Mustangs responded with a 66-yard scoring drive of their own, getting the touchdown at the 6:35 mark of the fourth quarter on a two-yard run by Mizzell.
East Lincoln coach Dave Lubowicz praised a defense that has been unyielding all season.
“We knew how good he was,” Lubowicz said of Carr. “The kids stepped up to the challenge and bought into the game plan. They had great focus.”
Lubowicz also assigned Cutter the task of shadowing Carr, which worked out well.
WHAT’S NEXT: In their first playoff game on the road, the Mustangs visit Kings Mountain this week in the fourth round. Both teams are 13-0. This is believed to be the first meeting in football between the schools.
Maiden rolls over Bunker Hill
MAIDEN—--The Blue Devils (12-1) raced out to a fast start on the arm of quarterback Wesley Thompson and cruised to a 37-14 win over Bunker Hill at Thomas E. Brown Stadium in Maiden on Friday.
Thompson connected with fellow senior Chris Culliver on touchdown passes of 58 and 24 yards on the Blue Devils first two possessions. Tack on a pair of extra point kicks by Carson Foard, and Maiden led 14-0 just four and a half minutes into the game.
Thompson tossed his third scoring pass of the quarter with just 24 seconds remaining, hooking up with Raheim Misher from 33 yards out to extend the lead to 21-0.
The Bears cut into the Blue Devil lead in the second period. Elijah Boston hauled in a 38-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Redek Robinson to close the gap to 21-7 with 8:45 to play in the first half.
The only other points before the intermission came on a 32-yard field goal off the foot of Foard as time expired.
Bunker Hill (11-2) tried to make it a game in the third quarter when Robinson connected with Boston for the second time on a scoring strike. This one from 15 yards out, and the Alan Bahena Soto point after made it a 24-14 game.
But Maiden answered on their ensuing possession with a 3-yard scoring run from Ben Gibbs that extended the lead to 31-14.
Gibbs would add a second touchdown run midway through the fourth period, again from three yards out to put the game out of reach.
Maiden finished the night with 583 total yards of offense. Thompson paced the Blue Devils, throwing for 444 yards and three touchdowns on 18 of 26 passing.
Culliver caught nine balls for 176 yards and two scores, and Misher added three catches for 50 yards and a touchdown.
Gibbs led the Blue Devils ground attack with 142 yards and a pair of scores on 25 carries.
The Bunker Hill offense was led by Robinson, who connected on 17 of his 33 pass attempts for 196 yards and two touchdowns. Boston finished the game with ten catches for 135 yards and two scores.
UP NEXT: Maiden will travel to Reidsville on Friday for a fourth-round 2A state playoff game against the Rams (12-1). It will be the first-ever meeting between the two schools.
(Published November 21, 2022)