Jeren Holman, Aaron Scott, and Fred Blanks will be leading the Husky ground attack up against the Mustang defense led by star linebacker Matt Fortenberry. Holman has been the team’s leading rusher all season with over 700 yards on the ground, and 8 touchdowns. Scott is not far behind with over 650 yards and 5 touchdowns. Blanks has not had the same amount of carries as Scott or Holman but is just as dangerous with his great speed and quickness. He has found the end zone four times this season.
Dalton Lewis and Sam Gammons will be looking to get the ball to the two top receivers the Huskies have at their disposal. Greyson Wells has had an excellent senior season, leading the Huskies in receptions and yards, and also catching 6 touchdowns. Matt Nichols has come on as of late to be another reliable receiving weapon for the two quarterbacks.
On defense for the Huskies, expect to see plenty of Alex Hershner and Seth Cox coming off the edge to put pressure on the Mustang quarterback Preston Perry. Perry will be looking for one of his favorite targets Devin Easter or Josh Wilson through the air against the Huskies secondary.
The defense will also have to come up big against star tailback Austin Culp. Culp has been the catalyst for the entire Mustang offense both running the ball and also catching some passes out of the backfield as well. After last week’s injury, the playing status of defensive tackle Zach Hudler is unknown as this point but the defense could certainly use his presence in the middle. Hudler leads the team with 3 forced fumbles.
Leading tacklers Luke Goss and Morgan Burks will be looking to make some big plays from their linebacker position against East Lincoln. Wells and Scott will also be patrolling the secondary hoping to shut down the passing game from the Mustangs. Wells has 10 interceptions this season, and has brought two of those back for touchdowns to help anchor the Husky pass defense.
These two teams played back in 2005 in the first round of the state playoffs. Ethan Goodman led the Huskies offense but East Lincoln was just too strong that night as they defeated Ashe 27-14.
The Mustangs have had a great season so far this year. They bring a 9-2 overall record into this first round playoff game with the Huskies. East Lincoln won the Southern Piedmont 2A/1A conference by going 5-0 and truly dominating their foes. During their conference stretch of games, the Mustangs scored 198 points and only gave up 48, including a dominating win over conference runner-up Lincolnton 31-14.
Ashe on the other hand also had the top defense in the Mountain Valley 2A/1A conference only giving up 88 points during conference action. The Huskies offense did struggle at some points this season, but two of the three games the Huskies were held to single digits were against #1 playoff seeds in Mt. Airy and Starmount. This current team is much different than the team that lost those games earlier in the season.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at East Lincoln High School in Denver, NC. See Tuesday’s edition of the Jefferson post, and also our website for a complete recap of the playoff game for the Huskies.
In other games involving area teams, the Watauga Pioneers will be on the road to take on the Ragsdale Tigers. Watauga finished the season at 6-5 while Ragsdale went undefeated this year behind the arm of Luke Heavner and the running ability of Donovan Smith. The Tigers gave up only 67 points all season and are one of the favorites to contend for the 4A state championship.
The Alleghany Trojans are making their second consecutive playoff appearance and will be trying to continue a season in which the team has faced many ups and downs all year. The Trojans started off the season winning 4 of their first 6 games, but after some key injuries, the team lost five games in a row. Then last weekend, Dustin Billings, Martin Garcia and leading rusher Sebastian Sandoval were involved in a car accident. Billings will not play, but the status of Garcia and Sandoval are unknown at this time. Last year, the Trojans had to make the long trip to North Duplin and nearly came away with a huge win, but North Duplin held on to win 21-14. Alleghany will be on the road once again to take on the Hobbton Wildcats who finished in 3rd place in the Tri-County 1A conference.
After winning the MVAC, Starmount received a #1 seed in the 2A west bracket. They will be hosting rival Surry Central. Those teams have had some tough battles in the past, in particular when both teams were in the same conference. Quarterback Jake Barr and their two best running backs M.J. Bryant and Israel Murphy will hope to carry Starmount to a win over Surry Central. Bryant gained 803 yards in the regular season, while also scoring 8 touchdowns. Murphy was the other backfield threat as he picked up 982 yards and found the end zone 16 times. Barr is also a threat with his legs, gaining 488 yards on the ground and scoring 11 times.
The Bucking Elks of Elkin will begin their postseason run with a home game against 2-8 Union Academy. Elkin finished second overall in the conference, but since they were the top 1A school in the conference, they received a #2 overall seed in the 1A west bracket.
Up next for Wilkes Central will be a battle with another 2A favorite in Forest Hills. The Eagles will be hoping for a huge game from Trae Alexander and will also be hoping for the defense to step up and stop the Yellow Jackets’ do-it-all quarterback Juanne Blount. Blount was slowed by an injury in their final regular season game to Monroe, but is expected to be ready to go against Wilkes Central. Blount has thrown for nearly 600 yards, but has carried the ball 171 times and picked up 1,614 yards and scored an astounding 29 touchdowns already this season. Blount will also hand the ball off to top tailback Canius Sturdivant who has 551 yards and 5 touchdowns this season.
Maybe the most anticipated of all the playoff games involving Mountain Valley conference teams would have to be the battle shaping up between East Wilkes and East Surry. The East Wilkes Cardinals finished the season with the highest scoring offense in the conference, while East Surry ended the year with a 10-1 record with their only loss coming to defending 1A champs Mt. Airy. This game will have plenty of points scored for sure.