By: Anthony Perkins
Lincolnton – The East Lincoln Mustangs hosted the South Point Red Raiders on Friday night with a trip to the State Championship on the line for both teams. The game featured two high powered offenses going up against two stingy defenses so something had to give.
The Mustangs showed off their offensive prowess on their first drive that covered 85 yards in eleven plays with fullback Christopher Daley adding the finishing touch on a five-yard run to give the Mustangs an early 7-0 lead that they held for the remainder of the first half.
South Point’s first possession ended in a fumble when they coughed up the ball at the South Point 32. The Red Raider’s defense found their footing after the turnover and held East Lincoln out of the end-zone but they were in the shadow of their own endzone at the seven-yard line when they regained possession.
South Point pushed the ball out to the East Lincoln 45 before they were forced to punt on a fourth and six just before the first quarter ended.
The Mustangs posed the only scoring threat in the second quarter when they advanced the ball to the South Point 30 but a 47-yard field goal attempt by Christopher Mileta was left of the mark and the score held at 7-0 in favor of the Mustangs.
In the third quarter the Red Raiders had the first possession but a three and out forced a punt to give East Lincoln their first possession at their own 36. They were able to make only one first down before South Point’s defense dug in and the Mustangs turned the ball over on downs at midfield.
On the first play of South Point’s next possession, a dropped pass, that might have gone for a touchdown and at the very least a long gain, seemed to knock the breath out of the South Point offense and two plays later that possession ended on another Red Raider punt.
East Lincoln’s offense set up shop at their own 15 after the South Point punt and then went on a ten play, 85-yard drive that Daley capped off with a one-yard run. Less than two minutes were remaining in the third quarter when the Mustangs scored and a 14-0 East Lincoln lead was looking pretty good for the home team.
The Red Raiders got on the board early in the fourth quarter after a seven play, 80 yard drive that fullback Cam Medlock capped off with a one-yard run to tighten things up a bit. The Mustangs committed their first mistake of the evening on their next drive when Daley coughed up the ball at the East Lincoln 42 to give the resurgent Red Raiders new life and a chance to even the score with just under five minutes remaining in the contest.
A holding penalty and three plays later, quarterback Patrick Blee and the Red Raiders were facing a fourth and eight when Blee dropped back to pass but a swarming Mustang defense was able to capture Blee for a 16-yard loss and it looked like the game might be over.
However, South Point’s defense was able to turn the Mustangs over on downs at the South Point 22 but by then only 40 ticks remained on the clock. Blee completed a 32-yard pass to Elijah Phifer to get inside East Lincoln territory. Blee followed up with a 13-yard completion to his brother Jackson Blee that advanced to ball to the East Lincoln 27 and hope was still alive. South Point downed the ball on the next play to stop the clock and the game looked like it was over on the next play when Blee was tackled on a roll out but a face mask penalty by the Mustangs stopped the clock and the visitors had one more play with the ball on the 15 but only nine seconds were left on the clock. On the last play of the game Blee rolled to his right and had a man open near the goal line but East Lincoln’s Ben Cutter jumped the route and secured the pass, the game and the right to play for the state title with the game ending interception.
Next week the East Lincoln Mustangs will travel to Raleigh to take on the Northern Nash Knights that defeated Fayetteville 71st by a score of 23-22.