DENVER, N.C. — East Lincoln captured the school’s third 3A state championship and first since 2014 after, rolling past Northern Nash in a 30-15 win.
Northern Nash opened the scoring with a quick strike on their opening possession. The Knights got a 66-yard run to the Mustang 2-yard line from Keno Jones on the second play from scrimmage and Jones cashed in on the big play slamming into the endzone from two yards out on the next play to put Northern up 6-0 after a missed PAT just 54 seconds into the game.
East Lincoln responded just over two minutes later as Christian Daley ripped off 35 yards to cap a 6-play, 65-yard drive and put the Mustangs up 7-6. Northern Nash responded with a 22-yard Bryson Jenkins field goal in the closing minute of the opening quarter to hold a 9-7 advantage at the end of the first.
The second quarter was all East Lincoln as the Mustangs hung 17 points on the board to take a 24-9 lead into the intermission. Tyler Mizzell tossed two touchdown passes in the second quarter, one to Markell Clark from 14 yards out and the other to Keandre Walker from 18 yards to get the Mustangs out in front 21-9. Walker finished with five catches for 41 yards and a score earning Most Outstanding Offensive Player honors for East Lincoln. Mustang kicker Christopehr Mileta hit a 34-yard field goal as time expired in the half to round out the first half scoring.
Mizell was very efficient in the passing game, completing 16 of his 323 attempts for 146 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also scampered for 34 yards in the game, winning the Most Valuable Player honors for the 3A Championship.
Mileta banged through a pair of field goal attempts in the fourth quarter, converting opportunities from 24 yards and 30 yards respectively to stretch the Mustang lead to 30-9 with just 3:39 to go in the game. The three made field goals by Mileta tied an NCHSAA Neutral Site Championship Record for made field goals, tying the mark set by Brad Green from Reidsville in 2016’s 2A Championship versus John A. Holmes.
The East Lincoln defense was tough all night. The Mustangs picked off three passes and held Northern Nash to 310 yards in the game. Ben Cutter anchored the East Lincoln defense from his linebacker spot, leading the team in tackles with 10 as he picked up Most Outstanding Defensive Player honors in the game.
Northern Nash found a late touchdown as Jones hit Ashton Rhodes from 6 yards out to cap a 10-play, 77-yard drive and cut the Mustang lead to 30-15, but the Knights only had 44 seconds remaining when they scored their second touchdown of the night. Carson Jenkins led the Knights with 20 tackles in the game, including 1.5 tackles for loss on his way to earning a Most Outstanding Defensive Player Award for Northern Nash. Keno Jones posted 224 yards and a touchdown while rushing for another score and 26 yards as he was chosen as Northern Nash’s Most Outstanding Offensive Player.
Northern Nash finished the year 15-1. The Knights won the Big East 2A/3A with a 6-0 record in league play. The Knights won the program’s second Regional Championship in Football, reaching the State Championship Game for the first time since 2022.
The Mustangs finished their season 16-0, they were the Western Foothills 3A Champions with a perfect 7-0 record. East Lincoln won their fourth Regional Championship and third State Championship in program history, joining teams from 2012 and 2014 as title holders.
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