MORAVIAN FALLS - Heading into tonight’s season-finale matchups, Starmount and Elkin are playing for much more than wins, but rather conference championships and playoff seeding.
In Moravian Falls, the Rams square off with Wilkes Central for a winner-take-all Mountain Valley Conference title game for the third-straight season. In East Bend, the 1A-leading Buckin’ Elks take on Forbush with hopes of securing the top seed out of the conference.
Starmount has owned the series with the Eagles as of late, winning the last four meetings, including the two most recent games with the conference championship on the line.
In last year’s title game, Central jumped out to a 17-9 lead at halftime in Boonville. But the Rams battled back and captured their fourth-straight conference crown on a 25-yard touchdown run by Chaston Martin with 46 seconds left to play.
This year, the Eagles will see a full dose of Martin and Starmount’s deep rushing attack.
The Rams feature eight backs that have rushed for over 175 yards on the season, led by Martin’s 951 yards (10.3 yards per attempt) and 15 touchdowns. Will Simpson (371 yards, five scores), Sergio Sarinara (333 yards, four scores) and Hunter Myers (308 yards, one score) give head coach Scott Johnson several viable options behind Martin.
But Starmount’s calling card is its stout, high-flying defense.
The Rams feature the state’s top-ranked defense, allowing a mere 3.6 points per game, including pitching four shutouts on the year. Led by Michael Wood, Zack Worley, Will Lambert and James Watson, Starmount has not allowed an offensive touchdown since Week Two and has only surrendered 12 points in conference action (two field goals and a 90-yard kickoff return touchdown to North Wilkes).
The Rams will have to prepare for a two-headed Williams rushing attack for the Eagles. Cameron Williams has run wild on defenses this year, racking up a conference-leading 1,179 yards (131 yards per game) and 14 touchdowns, while Victor Williams has accounted for 767 yards and 11 scores.
Tonight’s title game will pit the two highest-scoring offenses in the MVAC, with Starmount average 33.5 points per game, while Central scores an even 30 per game.
In East Bend, the 1A championship is on the line when Elkin battles Forbush tonight.
At 5-4 on the year and 4-3 in conference play, the Elks control their own destiny to secure the top 1A seed out of the MVAC in the upcoming state playoffs. But West Wilkes (4-5, 4-3) is nipping at their heels.
A win over the Falcons (1-8, 1-6) would give Elkin the No. 1 spot outright, while a loss and a Blackhawk victory over Alleghany would give West the title. If the teams wind up tied in the final standings, the Elks hold the tie-breaker virtue of their head-to-head win in September.
Offensively, Elkin will rely on the strong play of quarterback Josh Strickland and running backs Jamiles Hayes and Kody King, while head coach Scott Wood points to an improved defense in the teams’ surge.
“Right now, I’m proud our defensive effort,” he said after last Friday’s meeting with Wilkes Central. “We’ve gotten so much better on defense as the year has progressed. We have to continue to build on this and get better for the playoffs.
“Playing like this shows a lot for our defense and our defensive intensity. But we’re going to have to get in sync on offense. We just have to get better,” Wood added after Elkin limited the Eagles to just 21 points, their second-lowest output of the year.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. around the Yadkin Valley.
Reach Matthew Gorry at 835-1513 or firstname.lastname@example.org.