Saturday, December 10, 2022

East Lincoln Wins Third Title in Eleven Years

RALEIGH – The 3A state championship game, scheduled to be the last game of the 2022 North Carolina high school football season, featured two undefeated teams with dynamic offenses and stingy defenses. In the end, it was turnovers that seemed to make the biggest difference, with East Lincoln’s four turnovers leading the Mustangs to a 30-15 victory and the 3A state championship.

Northern Nash started the game with a bang, with Keno Jones hitting a streaking Randall King for a sixty-six-yard catch and run to get the Knights inside the five-yard line on the second play of the game. Jones scored on a keeper on the next play to put Northern Nash on the board less than a minute into the game. A fumble on East Lincoln’s first play from scrimmage looked like it would be a disaster for the Mustangs, but the East Lincoln defense stepped up and turned Northern Nash over on downs.

Energized by their team’s big defensive stops, the Mustangs offense started to hit their stride later in the quarter. Sophomore running back Christopher Daley II punished the Northern Nash defense, rumbling in from thirty-five yards out to give the Mustangs a 7-6 lead. Keno Jones went deep again on the next Northern Nash drive, hitting Trey Battle for forty-five yards to get the Knights in scoring position. The East Lincoln defense kept the Knights out of the end zone and forced a Bryson Jenkins field goal to end the quarter.

The second quarter belonged to quarterback Tyler Mizzell and the Mustangs. Mizzell threw two beautiful touchdown passes to give East Lincoln a commanding lead going into the half. The first score was a toss to Markell Clark, but it was the fade to Keandre Walker in the back corner of the end zone that had the Mustang faithful on their feet and feeling like they had overcome the costly miscues from earlier in the evening. A Christopher Mileta field goal with no time remaining in the half set the intermission score at 24-9. After a scoreless third quarter, Mileta would add the next points of the game with two fourth-quarter field goals. Keno Jones added a late touchdown pass to Ashton Rhodes to cap the scoring.

Defensively, East Lincoln teetered between giving up big passes to Northern Nash’s speedy outside receivers and making athletic plays to pick off passes. Defensive end Diego Neira picked off a screen pass to set up East Lincoln’s second touchdown of the night. Aiden Terrell and Keandre Walker picked off passes on consecutive drives in the third quarter and Marcel Johnson recovered a fumble early in the fourth quarter to keep Northern Nash off the board.

The win marked the third football state championship for East Lincoln, all within the last eleven seasons. Northern Nash suffered its first loss of the season and fell to 0-2 all-time in state title games.