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STATESVILLE—It is the age old saying: It’s hard to beat the same team twice.

However, the No. 2 Statesville Greyhounds put that saying to bed on Friday night with a 42-3 win over No. 18 East Lincoln to advance to the third round of the 3A state playoffs.

Statesville defeated the Mustangs 23-6 on Oct. 24 to move to 4-0 on the season but were without senior running back JZ Harrison-Connor in that game.

East Lincoln came out strong, driving down inside the Greyhound’s 5-yard line but settled for a 21-yard field goal by Jaxon Sellers. The Mustangs stacked up 50 yards on their opening drive but only added eight more the rest of the first half.

Statesville’s offense started slow, fumbling and punting on its first two possessions of the game. Senior quarterback Zamari Stevenson got it started for the Greyhounds, hitting junior Steven Smith for a 39-yard touchdown pass on the first play of their third possession. It was off to the races from there for the Greyhounds.

Senior Daniel Miller recovered a Mustang fumble on the next play from scrimmage and Stevenson scored from 10 yards out the following play to put Statesville up 14-3 in the blink of an eye. The Greyhounds went from down 3-0 to on top 14-3 in just nine seconds of game time.

“Our defensive coaches made a great adjustment after the first drive on what they were trying to do,” Statesville head coach Randall Gussler said. “A few adjustments here and there and then everything rolled out pretty well.”

Stevenson added a pair of 4-yard touchdown runs in the second quarter to extend Statesville’s lead to 28-3.

Then Harrison-Connor got involved. The senior scampered 50 yards for the fourth rushing touchdown of the first half for Statesville. Harrison-Connor had 13 carries for 157 yards and one touchdown.

Stevenson rushed for 29 yards and three touchdowns and threw for 124 yards on 12-for-17 passing and one touchdown pass. Quantay Brown had a 3-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.

The Greyhounds defense continued its great form led by senior Austin Sherrill with three sacks in the game.

“It’s hard playing a team twice, but seeing them once and learning their tendencies our guys were well prepared,” Gusler said. “We get to play in the ‘Hollow’ and don’t have to travel, get everyone healed up and ready to roll again.”

No. 2 Statesville will host No. 7 Hibriten this Friday night in the third round.

(Published November 15, 2021)

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