The third week of conference play brings our third showdown between Lincoln County rivals, with the East Lincoln Mustangs traveling to Pumpkin Center to put their perfect record on the line against the North Lincoln Knights.
The Knights and Mustangs join Newton-Conover as the only teams yet to lose in South Fork 2A conference play through two weeks, but only one will walk away unblemished after tonight. The Knights went on the road to beat West Lincoln two weeks ago, which is arguably the most impressive win by any team in the league to this point, and then trounced Lake Norman Charter last week, while East Lincoln has posted wins over Lake Norman Charter and Lincolnton, with the former being a blowout and the latter a nailbiter at home a week ago.
North Lincoln has been without starting quarterback Landon Beard for much of the season, and it’s unclear whether he’ll suit up tonight. Regardless, junior backup Jack Carter has proven more than capable in guiding the Knights to five consecutive wins.
The Mustangs appeared to have one of the most explosive offenses in the league, but they struggled mightily moving the ball against Lincolnton last week. The rushing attack did its part, but the Wolves kept quarterback Justin Barnett off balance, pressuring the senior signal caller often, while several drops by his receivers didn’t help their cause.
It could be tough sledding for each offense tonight, as the Knights and Mustangs feature the top two scoring defenses in the league thus far. East Lincoln’s defense stood tall last week despite constantly playing with its back against the wall, while North Lincoln shut down a potent West Lincoln rushing attack for three quarters after spotting the Rebels an early lead.
These teams met twice last year, with the Knights winning both games, including a convincing 38-13 victory in the second round of the playoffs.
Defensive end Tra Price dominated that game, recording 11 tackles, including 3 in the backfield and 2 sacks. The Mustangs struggled to find any traction with their ground game, averaging barely more than 3 yards per carry, while North Lincoln pounded the rock to the tune of 265 rushing yards on 47 attempts.
Bandys at Lincolnton
While the Mustangs and Knights make up two of the three remaining unbeaten teams, the Wolves and Trojans join Lake Norman Charter as the only two South Fork teams without a win through two weeks of league play.
Bandys won the league last year, but lost a big chunk of the talent that got them there. The Trojans started this season 3-0, but have since lost three consecutive games, including losses to Catawba County rivals Maiden and Newton-Conover.
Lincolnton has also lost to Newton-Conover, and while last week’s showdown with East Lincoln didn’t result in a victory, the Wolves have to be encouraged with the defensive effort put forth, holding the Mustangs to 10 points and less than 250 yards. The Wolves will face a different style of offense tonight in Bandys, which runs the ball about 95 percent of the time, but Lincolnton’s defense fared well against similar offenses in Stuart Cramer and South Point despite losing both games.
West Lincoln at Newton-Conover
The Rebels rebounded in fine fashion after a disappointing loss to North Lincoln with an impressive victory over Maiden a week ago.
West Lincoln was able to contain Maiden’s high-flying passing attack, and they’ll face a similar test against the Red Devils tonight.
Newton-Conover is known for its athletes on offense, but the Red Devils have been impressive on defense as well in recent weeks.
While Newton’s defense appears much improved, they’ve been exposed against the run in losses to Hendersonville and Burns. The Rebels boast the top rushing attack in the league, led by Canon Bridges, who leads the league with 947 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns.