Behind a season-high in passing yards, North Lincoln defeated East Lincoln for the second time this season Nov. 23 in a second-round 2AA playoff game.
As the head of the Knights’ triple-option offense, quarterback Landon Beard had only averaged 2.25 completions per game entering the rematch against the rival Mustangs. But the junior completed six of eight attempts, throwing for 101 yards and two touchdowns. in the 38-13 win.
“We’ve always tried to throw when we want to, not when we have to,” North coach Nick Bazzle said. “We saw some windows of opportunities against East.”
Typically, when Beard does throw, it’s for big yardage, so Bazzle was confident in his ability to do so.
“We’ve always known that Beard could throw,” Bazzle said. “He’s gotten a whole lot better.”
Despite the increase in picking up yards through the air, running back Clayton Cribb still led the ground game, gaining 148 yards on 20 carries, scoring once. The team rushed for 265 yards as a whole.
And when the 8-seed Knights travel to Shelby Friday, Nov. 30, the host Lions will have to account for North’s ability to move the ball in multiple ways.
“It makes them have to play a little more honest,” Bazzle said. “If people get over-concerned with the run, we can throw it over people’s heads. It makes it a little more difficult.”
For the 16-seeded Mustangs, they couldn’t capitalize on the first-round upset over 1-seed Pisgah. Only yielding 15 points per game over the last four contests, the usually stout East defense gave up a season high in points.
Offensively, running back Lucas McConnell had 92 yards on eight carries, buoyed by a 54-yard scamper. Four receivers had one reception each, with Sidney Dollar hauling in a 60-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Justin Barnett.
Barnett took over for the injured Chase Jones in the playoffs. A senior, Jones completed 54 percent of his passes for 1,334 yards and 14 touchdowns during the regular season. Barnett had three touchdown throws in the playoffs.
East Lincoln had beaten North every year since 2008, and this was the first time North had beaten the Mustangs twice in a year. On Oct. 5 North held off a second-half rally to win 24-16.
Next for the Knights is Shelby, the 4 seed and champions of the Southwestern 2A conference.
It will be a contrast of styles, as junior quarterback Isaiah Bess has thrown for 3,210 yards and 32 touchdowns.
Bazzle is not discounting the Bears’ run game, however. Running back Donye Fuller averages 6.3 yards per carry.
“They can run it, you can’t take that for granted,” Bazzle said. “You have to play them honest.”
Shelby used be in the same conference as Newton-Conover, where Bazzle was head coach for 13 seasons. Under former coach Chris Norman, Shelby ran the triple option as well.
“That was the Shelby staple,” Bazzle said.
Bandys rolls in 2nd round
As the 3 seed, Bandys had a much easier time with its second-round opponent, beating West Stokes 51-14.
The Trojans led 24-14 at the half, and the defense pitched a shutout in the second half. Running back Ethan Howard led the way with 224 rushing yards and scored three touchdowns.
Elijah Clarke also crossed the century mark with 124 yards, and quarterback Lake Hojnacki scored four times with his legs.
Hojnacki, in his first year in coach Tom Eanes’ option offense, surpassed 1,000 yards on the ground earlier this season.
“It’s big for himself personally,” Eanes said of the milestone. “In the first year, I didn’t know how we would be running the ball. He did a really good job.”
On Friday, the Trojans face 2-seed Hibriten for the second year in a row in the playoffs. Last year, under coach Trent Lowman, Bandys lost 57-6. Eanes’ Patton team lost to Hibriten twice last year, 35-0 both times.