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Bulldogs ready for another challenge

Thomasville’s T.J. Mitchell lunges for extra yardage against Lexington on Oct. 26 at Cushwa Stadium. (Photo by Mike Duprez/The Dispatch)

Thomasville wants to run the ball, and everybody knows that.

East Lincoln wants to pass the ball, and everybody knows that, too.

Friday’s 2-A quarterfinal in Denver will probably come down to which team has more success doing what it wants to do.

The Bulldogs, who started the season 0-6, have hit their stride thanks in large part to the running of Gabe Brockett. The senior, who was a defensive player until this year, has racked up over 2,800 yards and 28 touchdowns on the ground. In last week’s 55-14 shellacking of Lincolnton in the second round at Cushwa Stadium, freshman fullback T.J. Mitchell got in on the act with 121 yards and three touchdowns of his own, giving opposing defenses something else to worry about.

But, after the trying start against a gauntlet of quality 4-A opponents, the Bulldogs don’t have many worries these days. “We’ve played well for the last two playoff games,” Thomasville assistant coach Dickie Cline said in an understatement. “But we’re definitely gonna have to play our tails off to have a shot this week.”

On paper, at least, Cline appears to be right. The Mustangs come into the matchup at 13-0, after winning the 1-A/2-A Southern Piedmont Conference. East Lincoln averages 44 points per game, and allows an average of 17 points per game.

They have shown they can win a shootout, nipping Hopewell 61-59 on Aug. 24. And, they can win a defensive struggle, as evidenced by their 13-8 victory over Lincolnton on Sept. 28.

Those defensive struggles have been few and far between. Where the Bulldogs run as far as Brockett can take them, the Mustangs will ride the arm of senior quarterback Garrett Young. East Lincoln runs the spread offense, and they run it very well. Young has passed for 3,158 yards this season, even though he’s missed two games with an injury. Mustangs coach Mike Byus said Young has been the varsity starter since midway through his sophomore season, and he has a plethora of good targets at wide receiver.

“We’re pretty balanced with receivers,” Byus said. “We’ve been blessed. And that’s one reason we throw a little bit more than normal, we’ve got five or six receivers that in any given year, they would be the best one you have.

“I’ve been doing it since ‘91 myself, and this kid’s (Young) been doing it all four years he’s been at East Lincoln.”

So Friday’s matchup won’t be anything like looking in the mirror for either team. Cline thinks that gives the Mustangs a clear advantage. “It’ll be nice if we can keep the football, sustain long drives and keep it out of their hands,” he said. “We don’t do a whole lot.

“We’re probably one of the easiest teams to prepare for, because of what we do. But, it’s not how much you do, it’s how well you do it.”

Byus acknowledged, stopping Brockett will be the Mustangs’ primary objective; one that few teams have been able to accomplish the last seven weeks. “I’ve seen No. 20 run a lot,” Byus added. “He seems to be a pretty good player. And they’ve got some pretty good people up front blocking for him.”

Jason Queen can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 220 or