For more of the last decade, Lincoln County football has been dominated by two teams. Friday night, East Lincoln and Lincolnton renew the areas' best matchup as the Wolves travel east to Denver to take the Mustangs in a critical Southern Piedmont conference game.
After looking up to Lincolnton for some time, East Lincoln has become the SPC top team, winning 53 games in the last five years, including their last 15 straight in conference play.
Two of those victories have come at the hands of the Wolves, including a 31-14 victory in 2009 and a 24-7 win in 2008.
"Lincolnton has been the team to beat for years," East Lincoln football coach Mike Byus said. "But we've been able to win a few in the last several years and make it a better rivalry. It doesn't get much better than this, it is a great atmosphere and a game we look forward to."
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Lincolnton, the last team in the SPC to beat the Mustangs in October 2007, hopes to settle the score.
The Wolves come into Friday's contest with a perfect 7-0 mark, their best start since 1980, when they went undefeated in the regular season.
"That date on the calendar has been circled for a long time for our team and the fans," said Lincolnton football coach Scott Cloninger. "Everybody knows it is a huge game and great environment to play it in."
Lincolnton is in the midst of a dream season and Friday night maybe the biggest hurdle between the Wolves and a perfect regular season.
The Lincolnton senior class wants this game even more after having lost the last two meetings to the Mustangs.
Lincolnton offense has been a machine this season, churning out 42 points per game.
Senior quarterback Brandon Wilson leads a prolific offense, which features a running game from Dee Littlejohn, Drake Henry and more. Wideout Michael Cunningham also makes big plays on the offense and the defense, as a defensive back, on a regular basis.
Jalen Littlejohn is also a big-time defensive back and can help wreck an opposing offense, especially when the ball goes in the air.
The Wolves are hungry to beat an East Lincoln team.
If Wilson, Dee Littlejohn and company get the offense moving early on, it could be a long night for the Mustangs. But in this rivalry game, expect a barnburner that is decided late in the fourth quarter.
East Lincoln (5-3)
After an 0-2 start against perennial powers, Newton-Conover and Oak Ridge Military Academy, East Lincoln has righted the ship, winning five games in a row, all of them by 16 points or more.
But this week will be a different story, as the Mustangs take an unbeaten Lincolnton, the team's archrival.
Junior quarterback Patrick Rendleman will need to be at his best. Rendleman has shown the ability to make big plays with his arms and legs.
Junior tailback Marcus "Bubba" McDowell has also stepped up, rushing for more than 200 yards in three different games. Wideout Devin Easter is also a multi-talented threat for the Mustang offense.
While the skills players get most the credit, the East Lincoln offensive line has done a lot of the heavy lifting for an offense that's coming into its own.
Senior Dylan Stortz leads a veteran group that also includes classmates Matt Hinson, Trent Hughes and Daniel Craig.
Stortz will also be big on the defense with 320-pound sophomore Dallas Smith hoping to contain the vaunted Wolves' rushing attack.
The Mustangs don't have a signature win this season and they hope it comes Friday night. If Rendleman and McDowell can get the Mustangs' offense running early, the game could be wide open.