North Lincoln at Shelby in the NCHSAA 2AA playoffs may be a case of the "unstoppable force vs the immovable object." North Lincoln's defense is largely responsible for their 10-3 record. The Knights will need a superior defensive effort to beat Shelby this week.
The Golden Lions are also 10-3; their losses came in the early part of the season when they lost three games in a row after an unimpressive opening win; but the Shelby team North Lincoln will face this Friday is a lot better than the Lions were early in the season. After those losses, including two to country rivals Burns and Crest, they squeaked by Kings Mountain and haven't had a close game since.
Speed is Shelby's main advantage. Quarterback Isaiah Bess is able to pick opponents' secondaries apart largely because his receivers are so much faster than the defenders.
Shelby is prone to mistakes on defense, although they do very well in securing turnovers from opponents mistakes. North Lincoln will need to play a solid ball-control game to win.
The big question for the Bandys at Hibriten game is 'can the Panthers stop Ethan Howard?' The Trojans running back has run for over 2200 yards this season and set a team career rushing record. Last week, he ran for 221 yards and three touchdowns. Bandys quarterback Lake Hojnacki ran for four TDs last week, and he and other runners are capable of moving the ball when Howard is resting.
Hibriten also has a star running back, McKinley Witherspoon, and their quarterback, Jaylen Scott, led his team to a state championship last season.
Before last week's win over South Point 28-20, many thought the Panthers, now 13-0, might go undefeated again this season. They haven't lost since South Point beat them en route to a state title in 2016. South Point fell behind 21-0 in the first period, but the Red Raiders' defense kept them in the game and their ball-control offense got them close before it was over.
Bandys defense is likely underrated--most of the attention having gone to Howard and the high-powered offense. The Trojans will need to play a good defensive game and avoid mistakes. Two weeks ago, they got penalized 155 yards. Last week, they started slow before rolling to a 51-14 win.
Another unbeaten team will see its toughest challenge of the season this Friday. In the 3A playoffs, Hunter Huss will host Charlotte Catholic. The 13- Huskies won easy victories over two teams from their own conference in rematches of regular season games in rounds one and two. They beat Stuart Cramer, then whipped Crest last Friday 35-0.
The Cougars lost their first game of the season to eventual private school state champ Charlotte Christian 6-0, but they had only one close game the rest of the season since. They beat Monroe in late September 21-14, but last week, in a rematch, they downed the Redhawks 42-0.
In another 3A game, Kings Mountain, now 11-2 will travel to Concord to play unbeaten Northwest Cabarrus. Quarterback Kaylon Wade and receiver Kobe Paysour, who holds the all-time record for the Mountaineers, will need to have a great game. Last week, Paysour also put on a defensive show including a 100-yard pick-six interception return in a 31-21 win over Statesville.
In 1A playoff action, undefeated Thomas Jefferson Academy will host Robbinsville.
On the radio & online
The North Lincoln @ Shelby game will be broadcast by WLON (1050AM, 107.5 FM) and WOHS (1390AM, 101.5FM) and can also be heard online at ktcbroadcasting.com.
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