RONDA — As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. For the East Wilkes football team, a remarkable season came to an end Friday night.
The Cardinals fell in the third round of the state playoffs 17-14 to Mitchell Friday night at Ebb Tharpe Field. In a back and forth match that pitted one of the best defenses and one of the best offenses in 1AA play.
Mitchell took its first lead of the game with 2:36 remaining in the game, and while East Wilkes started to get near field-goal range, the team couldn’t get close enough, turning it over on downs.
In the first half, East Wilkes had a 14-0 lead thanks to two rushing touchdowns by senior Camon Bryan approaching the final minute of the first half, but couldn’t keep Mitchell off the board.
Mitchell tied things up in the third quarter, and was driving it downfield midway through the fourth when the Cardinals were able to come up with a big stop on fourth down. However, on the ensuing play, the Cardinals gave it right back throwing an interception, as Mitchell would go on to kick the go-ahead field goal. The Cardinals constantly were trying to adjust their offense but struggled to move the chain late.
“Our defense was on the field too much, and our inabilities to sustain drives in the second half, that was the big killer,” Head Coach J.K. Adkins said. “We gave away two possessions quick, both of those were on the first play of possessions.”
The third round remains the farthest any East Wilkes program has gone, but there’s no doubt that the Cards made history this season. Winning their first conference championship in over 20 years, and becoming the winningest team in program history and Wilkes County history was quite an accomplishment. They might have a few reasons to hang their heads, but on the contrary, they have 13 reasons to pick their heads back up.
“The formula for success is not a complicated one, but it’s one a lot of people aren’t willing to do, and our guys, not just our senior class, our whole team worked their tails off just to get to where they are right now,” Adkins said.
Without question, there are some holes for the team to fill, losing 14 seniors in total. However, there were plenty of underclassmen playing an important role on this year’s team that now know that formula for success.
“I think that the boys coming up, they saw how we bonded this year, how we were all one, I think if they carry that they have so many more successful years to come, this program will be at the top for a very, very, very long time,” senior Quincy Lineberger said.
East Wilkes finishes the year 13-1, 7-0 MVAC, and with a fire in their hearts to come roaring back next season.
Ryan DeCosta can be reached at 336-258-4052 or via Twitter @rsdecosta.