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By CHRIS HOBBS
CATAWBA VALLEY 2A ATHLETIC
WEST LINCOLN (4-0, 1-0)
at MAIDEN (3-1, 1-0), 7:30 p.m.
It’s a Catawba Valley 2A Athletic showdown that any way you slice it is big.
There’s a long history here – 31 games since 1980 – and the Blue Devils have, for the most part, dominated by winning 27 of those games.
Few games will top the potential big nights for either team:
West Lincoln RB Mason Avery led the CVAC 2A in rushing last season and is still a big Rebels weapon (75-788), and RB Jaylon Winnex has 48 carries for 431 yards.
Maiden’s offensive weapons have not changed much from last year. There’s a new QB — Wesley Thompson (34-67-2, 789 yards, 10 TDs) — and returning RB Ben Gibbs (72-458, 6 TDs) and WR Chris Culliver (21-549, 7 TDs) are dream killers.
West Lincoln, after a long history of not drawing much attention in football, has turned things in a different direction under head coach Darren Ponder (28-10, fourth season).
The Rebels gave the Blue Devils a handful in Vale last season, losing 20-14 after Gibbs gained 135 yards, graduated QB Ethan Rhodes threw for 174 yards and Culliver scored twice and had five catches for 110 yards.
When the teams met in the second round of the state playoffs, Maiden crushed the visiting Rebels 47-0. Gibbs ran for 124 yards, Rhodes threw for 162 yards and three scores and Culliver had 119 receiving yards (he had six with 100 or more last year) and two TD catches.
West Lincoln, its only shutout of the season, got 60 rushing yards from Avery and 21 from Winnex.
The Rebels have to forget history (1980 onward) if they want to win one of the biggest regular-season games they’ve played in years:
- Maiden has won three straight in the series after the Rebels won two straight, the first victory snapping a 20-game series win streak by the Blue Devils.
- West Lincoln’s only series wins: 12-8 at Maiden in 1980, 8-6 at West Lincoln in 1985, 31-18 at Maiden in 2018, 28-22 at West Lincoln in 2019.
- West Lincoln is 2-15 at Maiden.
- Three of the last four win margins in the series are six, one and one. Before that, the only win, by either team, that was not by 10 or more points (a stretch of 20 games) was Maiden’s 28-20 victory in 2007. Five of the games had win margins of 40 or more points.
A victory tonight would give Maiden head coach Will Byrne – a former Shrine Bowl WR for the Blue Devils – his 60th career win (59-15, seventh season).
BANDYS (1-3, 0-1) at EAST BURKE (2-2, 0-1), 7:30 p.m.
The Trojans face the Cavs in Icard for the third time and for the seventh time overall, going 2-0 at East Burke and leading the series 5-1.
The Cavs are playing their 20th game under head coach Derrick Minor (9-10), and it’s also his 99th game as a prep football head coach (58-40).
East Burke has relied on RB Jacob Dellinger (63-292 yards, five TDs) and RB Levi Coble (46-238, 3 TDs) offensively.
Bandys QB Wyatt Wesson threw for 367 yards in his first three starts (his stats vs. West Lincoln are not available).
The Cavs’ 36-32 victory last season at Bandys was pretty much via a big night from graduated RB Blaine Fulbright, who had many for East Burke. He carried 33 times for 160 yards and five scores. Of the returning Cavs, Dellinger had two carries for minus-2 yards in that win.
This Catawba Valley 2A Athletic battle is also the 20th game as head coach for former Trojans player Jason Barnes (5-14).
BUNKER HILL (4-0, 1-0) at WEST CALDWELL (0-4, 0-1), 7:30 p.m.
The Bears anticipate having a full roster for their second Catawba Valley 2A Athletic game.
They had a few players miss last week’s 7-6 home win over Lincolnton because of an ejection in a previous game and then had some players react to a cleaning agent used on shoulder pads and they developed staph infection.
Led by QB Redek Robinson (45-78-6, 600 yards, 3 TDs) and RB Jason Willis (40-434, missed part of one game with an injury) the Bears have overcome adversity to stay red-hot since Albert Reid took over as head coach (15-2).
The Warriors were pounded last Friday at Newton-Conover, losing 64-6 as their losing streak increased to 15.
The Bears won last year, at home, when Willis had the first of his 2021 scoring receptions. That win snapped a three-game win streak in the series by West Caldwell.
NEWTON-CONOVER (2-2, 1-0) at LINCOLNTON (1-3, 0-1), 7:30 p.m.
The Wolves go for their third straight win in a series of 22 games since 1980, with Lincolnton leading 12-10.
Lincolnton won 21-17 last season in Newton when QB Andre Bost (50-96-4, 421 yards) and RB Khamoni Heath (51-184), both of whom return, accounted for one score each. Bost had 106 yards of total offense.
WR Andrew Phelps (23-244) is having one of the top years for receivers in the Catawba Valley 2A Athletic.
Returning RB Ben Watson had 83 yards on 18 carries, and QB Aiden Luangkhot threw for 64 yards and ran for a TD for Newton-Conover in last season’s loss.
The Red Devils had stopped a seven-game losing streak in the series when they won the next three, but the Wolves now have back-to-back wins.
Newton-Conover is 5-4 at Lincolnton since 1980, last winning there in 2018 (34-7).
The Red Devils are 11-19 in their third season under head coach Steven Pack.
WESTERN FOOTHILLS 3A
EAST LINCOLN (4-0 1-0) at STATESVILLE (2-2, 1-0), 7:30 p.m.
Game No. 61 for David Lubowicz as head coach at East Lincoln is about maintaining a hold on a share of first place in the Western Foothills 3A.
The Mustangs are 37-23 in Lubowicz’s sixth season and, once again, loaded with talent – especially in the skill postions.
Returning QB Tyler Mizzell leads the show (33-2150 rushing, 68-106-1, 680 yards passing, nine TDs) and RB Christopher Daley has six scores among his 40 carries for 397 yards.
Mizzell has multiple targets, led by Keandre Walker (18-236, 1 TD) and Markell Clark (25-278, 6 TDs).
The Mustangs reversed their league start of last year, beating Hickory 28-12 in Denver, N.C., last Friday night and Statesville nipped North Lincoln on the road 15-9.
A year ago, the Greyhounds won 23-6 at home. With Mizzell out with an injury, Statesville held East Lincoln (and starting QB Hunter Bolling, who returns) to 49 passing yards.
Rydell Cowan is in his first season as Greyhounds head coach.
FRED T. FOARD (0-4, 0-1) at WEST IREDELL (0-4, 0-1), 7:30 p.m.
A head coach with Catawba County ties will gain his first career victory tonight when the Tigers engage the Warriors.
Former Maiden star Micheal Ramseur is Foard’s new head coach while the Warriors’ new boss is Matt Wilson, a former starting QB at Newton-Conover who also coached there and, after 10 years as an assistant, left Alexander Central to take over at West Iredell.
Foard has lost 18 straight games, including 16-8 at Foard last season (the Tigers had won five of six in the series before that).
In the 12 games they’ve played since 1980, Foard has won seven. The Tigers last won at West Iredell in 2018 (41-14), and win margin in those dozen games has been under 10 points only four times.
RB Deonatae McIllwain has been a leader so far for Foard with 120 rushing yards and 11 catches for 100 yards WR Austin Stillwell has 14 catches for 142 yards and has scored two rushing TDs.
NORTH LINCOLN (0-3, 0-1) at HICKORY (2-2, 0-1), 7:30 p.m.
The 50th game for Nick Bazzle as head coach at North Lincoln will be a challenging one – win at Barger Stadium.
Bazzle’s winless so far this season and got his 100th career loss last Friday when Statesville won 15-9 in the Knights’ first game on their new turf field. He is 163-100 in his 22nd season and 34-15 at North Lincoln in his fifth year.
Hickory fell 28-12 at East Lincoln last Friday and does not yet appear to have hit a stride. QB Brady Stober (11 TD passes, five to WR Ty Hill) has been stellar.
RB Cody Moorse (50-262 yards) has sparked the Knights.
This is the fourth meeting for the schools and Hickory is 2-1.
North Lincoln has played at Barger Stadium only once before, falling 42-25 in 2010.
The Knights won 21-6 last season at home when returning RB Brennan Rogers ran for 99 yards and two scores and returning RB Liam Sutton added 83 rushing yards.
Tunner Wood was HHS’ QB in that game (he returns) and threw for 276 yards with returnee Dashawn Medley making three catches for 108 yards.
ST. STEPHENS (2-2, 1-0) at NORTH IREDELL (1-3, 1-0), 7:30 p.m.
The winner in Olin tonight keeps at least part of first place in the Western Foothills 3A.
Each head coach – Kyle Lowman at St. Stephens and Andy Howell are North Iredell – are in their 14th games and each is 4-9.
The Indians opened league play with a 49-20 home victory last Friday over West Iredell while the Red Raiders won 28-7 at Foard.
St. Stephens RB Brycen Gaither continues to emerge as one of the region’s top young players (66-350, nine catches for 153 yards, seven rushing TDs, three receiving TDs, 82-yard kickoff return TD).
The Indians also featured athletic QB Preston Young (42-75-1, 615 yards, six TDs) and he’s hit WR Dayton Anderson 14 times for 209 yards and a score.
No season stats are available for North Iredell, which has split eight games with the Indians.
North Iredell won 15-6 in Hickory last year.
The Indians are 2-2 in Olin and last won there in 2019 (35-14).
AVERY COUNTY (1-4, 1-0) at DRAUGHN (4-1, 1-0), 7:30 p.m.
Draughn, obviously in the mix of discussion about who’s playing the best football in the area right now, can get head coach Chris Powell to .500 with a victory tonight.
The Wildcats — who have been on a steady climb that began to show sparks last season – are 23-24 under Powell, in his fifth season.
With the numbers they return and their current production, the Wildcats are beginning to get a few look-sees as a Western N.C. 1A contender.
RB Justin Cunningham has already scored 11 TDs and rushed 75 times for 547 yards, and QB Eli Tillery, playing at a small school, isn’t getting the attention his stats justify – 26-246 rushing with five TDs and 49-97-3 for 862 yards and 11 TD passes.
There’s more: WR Zach Pinkerton has 17 catches for 458 yards with five TD receptions, and WR Elijah Pritchard has 12 catches for 154 yards and four TDs.
While Draughn dominated Black Mountain Owen last Friday (winning 55-12), Avery County snapped a three-game losing streak by smacking Rosman 51-13.
Avery County QB Will Stafford has rushed for 480 yards and seven scores and is 70-144-9 for 841 yards and five scores. WR Latrell Baker adds 18 catches for 281 yards and one TD and WR Elijah Holtzclaw has 18 catches for 242 yards and one TD.