It's hard to know where to start with the story on this game.
Was it the breakaway runs of Eagles Landing Christian Academy's freshman Keonte Green that totaled 187 yards and 3 touchdowns in just over a quarter of playing time? Or that he was held to only 45 yards on his last 12 carries, and fumbled to end ELCA's last chance?
Was it the Red Devil defense that gave up 388 yards rushing and 582 all-purpose yards, and the most points in a playoff game since 1949? Or the Devil Defense that stopped the ELCA offense in the fourth quarter, and grabbed two interceptions and a fumble to help win the game?
Or could it be the much-maligned Red Devil offense that shook off its scoring doldrums and kept up with ELCA's scoring binge with a good mix of run and pass, taking advantage of turnovers and breaking long plays of its own to overcome a 13-point fourth quarter deficit.
This game was all that, and so much more. Devil Head Coach Larry Campbell, quote in The Augusta Chronicle, called it "probably the best football game I've ever been associated with." From the legendary coach, that is saying something.
Prior to the game, Campbell had compared Green to Garrison Hearst and Herschel Walker. His scoring runs of 65 and 79 yards on the first two scrimmage plays by the ELCA offense convinced the Devil faithful. And he's only a freshman. The line of college recruiters is already starting to form.
The game started off well-enough for our Devils, QB Franklin Sherman connected with Tavious McGahee on a 26-yard scoring pass to end the first Devil possession. The score came on 4th-&-11, with Sherman scrambling to find a wide-open McGahee at the endzone. The kick was wide left, leaving the Devils up 6-0 with 7:03 to go in the opening quarter.
The Devil fans quickly went from joyous to silent as Green took the handoff on the first ELCA play and dashed untouched 65 yards. The PAT kick was good for a 7-6 ELCA lead with 6:48 left in the first.
Lincoln County managed a first down on its next drive but were forced to punt. This time Green went down the right side for 79 yards. The kick gave ELCA a 14-6 lead with 3:02 left in the first.
Our offense figured they could play the big-play game too, with Sherman connecting with Craig Jones on a 42-yard pass/run play. Jones then rushed for 16 and then the final 4 into the endzone with 1:18 left in the first quarter. The Devils tried a run for two but came up short, leaving ELCA ahead 14-12.
The Devil Defense stiffened a bit on the next ELCA possession, but the Chargers drove to the LC 43. Green then lined up in the wildcat formation, took the direct snap from center, and dashed through the middle for 43 yards. With the PAT kick, ELCA led 21-12 with 10:24 left in the first half. But again our Devil Offense was not to be denied. After picking up a first down at its 43, McGahee broke loose for 55 yards and a touchdown. Walker Smith's PAT kick with 7:29 left in the half cut the lead to 21-19.
ELCA, primarily on Green's running, again drove to a 1st down at the LC 15. Good defense and a penalty forced ELCA into 4th-&-20 at the 25. Jathan Mickens grabbed an interception to end the threat and keep the halftime score at 21-19, Devils trailing by 2. At the break, Green had rushed 9 times for 220 yards, with another 60 yards on 2 kickoff returns.
The third quarter continued the ELCA onslaught, as the Chargers drove back to the LC 15. The visitors netted zero yards on 3 plays, and settled for a 30-yard field goal with 7:08 left in the third. Only five down and after a good kickoff return by Mickens, the Devils fumbled at their 45. Six plays later ELCA scored on a 5-yard run. The PAT gave the Chargers a 31-19 lead with 5:05 left in the third.
But Lincoln County has a few good runners too. Ercell Daniel reminded everyone of that when he went down the left side for 61 yards and paydirt on the Devils' first play after the kickoff. Smith's boot cut the lead to 31-26 with 4:51 left in the third.
ELCA drove again, with a 4-yard run on the first play of the final quarter increasing their lead. A PAT run for two put the Chargers up by 13 with 11:53 left in the season for one of the teams. A sack and a penalty forced the Devils to punt from their 16, giving the Chargers the pigskin near midfield. On 3rd-&-10 ELCA attempted a pass, but Desmond Kilpatrick made the inteception and returned the ball 63 yards to the ELCA 9. Jones scored from there with 8:26 left. Smith's kick cut the lead to 39-32. There's still time, if the Defense can stop ELCA.
The Devils thought they had ELCA stopped at the ELCA 35, but a questionable offsides call setup a first down run of 3 yards by Green. Four plays later, on 4th-&-1 at the LC 49, Green was stopped just short of the marker, giving Big Red the ball with 4:50 left. There's time, and good field position. Daniel gained 6, with Steven Morris, questionable for the game but playing with an injury, gained 4 for a first down at the ELCA 41. Garrett Mohr then found Mason Saggus at the 5. Saggus, who stood out on the Devil junior varsity this year, made a great catch near the 5 and got into the endzone to tie the game with 3:26 left. Smith's kick gave the Devils their first lead since early in the game.
But the Devil faithful know there's plenty of time for Green or one of the other speedy ELCA backs to score. Green gained 8 on first down, to the ELCA 24. Then, in shotgun formation, Green drops the snap, and Keestan Wynn falls on the ball before Green can recover. Red Devils have the ball at the ELCA 19 with 2:39 left. Jones gained 6 to the 13 before Daniel all but cemented the win with a 13-yard run. The PAT kick put the Devils up by 8, 47-39, with 1:53 left.
Another interception by Kilpatrick with 1:01 left, followed by a 21-yard run by Daniel for a first down, ended ELCA's hopes.
Green finished the game with 291 yards on 22 carries, plus another 100 yards on 4 kickoff returns. After his first four carries, he had only one run of over 20 yards as the Devil Defense contained the speedster.
The 39 points are the most allowed on Buddy Bufford Field since 1972, and the most allowed in a home playoff game ever.