Saturday, August 27, 2011

Carolina Gridiron Game of the Week - Week 2 Postgame Wrap-up

LINCOLNTON – On a muggy, late summer night the fans filled Lincolnton Memorial Stadium to watch the Lincolnton Wolves face off against the South Point Red Raiders from Belmont.  It was a battle of teams who seem to enjoy playing a physical game and will run right at whoever they are playing.  The crowds were raucous and ready for action even thirty minutes before kickoff.

A botched snap on the first play from scrimmage gave South Point the ball in Lincolnton territory.  The Red Raiders didn’t waste any time putting their ball control, Red Bone option offense into work, but were unable to capitalize after missing a field goal attempt.  After forcing a three and out on their next possession, South Point took over again and set the pace using precision runs and option pitches.

South Point controlled the line of scrimmage and time of possession in the first half.  Although tied at zero at the end of the first quarter, South Point scored their first points a minute into the second quarter with a short run by quarterback Patrick Horne.  After recovering an onside kick, the Red Raiders scored again on a run by Troy Leeper in the second quarter, whose broken tackles and stiff arms kept the Wolves defense on their heels all night.

By the half, South Point had run over 40 plays while Lincolnton had run less than 10.  But, the Wolves were able to capitalize on their limited plays with a 54 yard touchdown pass from Patrick Rendleman to Jonathan Gidney with five minutes left in the half.

This apparently angered Red Raider fullback Troy Leeper who punished the Wolves defense on the next drive, breaking five tackles on his way to scoring another rushing touchdown, expanding the lead to 21-7 with three minutes left in the half.

Not giving up, the Wolves drove right back down the field, scoring on a 16 yard run on 4th and 3 by preseason All-Gridiron Michael Cunningham.  Going into the half, South Point held onto a seven point lead.

The third quarter was owned by Lincolnton as their defense seemed to finally have an answer for the option-oriented Red Bone offense.  After an unlikely bounce on a punt pinned the Wolves deep in their own territory at the 1 yard line, the Lincolnton offense went to work.  Although a few Red Raider penalties helped continue the drive, the Wolves successfully drove 99 yards down the field for the tying score on a run by Jaden Angle.

Tied at 21 entering the fourth quarter, both teams were giving each other all they had, but South Point seemed to have a little more than Lincolnton in this almost playoff atmosphere.  Putting his team on his back, Troy Leeper broke off some big runs late in the fourth quarter and the Red Raiders were able to find the end zone twice more to put the game out of reach with less than a minute left.

The final score was 35-21 in favor of the Red Raiders, but both teams walked off the field knowing they had given it their all.

New South Point coach Mickey Lineberger had a lot of praise for his team and coaches after the game.  “I’m proud of the way our kinds battled back and found a way.  Our coaches had the kids ready to play and they rose to the occasion.  Lincolnton is a lot like us and we had to come to their backyard and it was a dogfight.”

Lineberger spoke highly of All-Gridiron defensive back Ramon Costner.  “He is an unbelievable athlete; there just aren’t many kids like him.  He is the total package, savvy, and a hard hitter.”  Costner was clear when asked about what he wanted the rest of the season: “shutouts – don’t let anybody score again.”

On Troy Leeper, who ended the game with over 280 yards rushing on 40 attempts, “he is a man among boys on the field and he really put his team on his back.”  Leeper gave all the credit to his offensive line and talked about how it’s good line play that makes this kind of night possible.

Lincolnton coach Scott Cloninger was proud of the effort from his team.  “This was a gut check game for the team, and we didn’t give up.  You have to give a lot of credit to the South Point coaches and players.  They are a really good team and that is why Lincolnton schedules teams like them and Shelby and Maiden.  You face this type of physical game in the playoffs.”

“We lost our starting center last week, and had a freshman step in and that may have contributed to the fumbled snap at the beginning, but he really stepped up and played well the rest of the game.” Cloninger went on.  “It’s tough to get offense going when they can’t get on the field and that’s a credit to the South Point offense.

On All-Gridiron players Dee Littlejohn and Michael Cunningham, “Dee played really well in the second and third quarters, really putting pressure on South Point.”  Littlejohn himself said after the game, “there’s no need to hang heads after this game, it was a good game.”  Cloninger also said that Cunningham “hurt his ankle in the preseason and isn’t 100% yet, but he is a threat in any game and scored that touchdown on fourth down for us in the first half.”  Cunningham added “it was intense and we fought.  Our guys have heart – our team is like a family…we’d rather lose now than in the playoffs.”

Stay tuned to Carolina Gridiron for information about future games of the week.