LINCOLNTON - Lincoln County came up just short 10-7 to strong Aquinas in a key region battle here last Friday night.
Aquinas remains undefeated at 4-0 and is ranked sixth in the AJC Class A Private Top 10. The Irish are now the favorites to win Region 7-A Subdivision B.
The Devils out-gained Aquinas 318-273 in yards from scrimmage. LC earned 15 first downs, compared to 13 for the visitors.
Leading the offensive charge was Kolbi Ferguson rushing 22 times for 167 yards and one touchdown. Colton Willis rushed for 78 yards on nine carries. Keenon Lampkin completed three of 11 pass attempts for 45 yards. Darren Elder caught the three aerials.
Lincoln County took the opening kickoff but was unable to make a first down and punted. The Irish started from their 47 and drove to the LC 4 on a dozen plays. The Devil Defense made the visitors earn every yard with two third-down and one fourth-down conversions. Three plays gained only two more yards. The Irish booted a 19-yard field goal with two minutes left in the first quarter to take a 3-0 lead.
Elder returned the kickoff 38 yards to midfield. Ferguson rushed for 16 with a facemask flag adding another 15 to the A 19. Two plays gained three years before a lost fumble ended the Devils' scoring threat.
A 56-yard pass play and an 18-yard run quickly moved the Irish back into scoring position at the LC 11. Two penalties and a loss pushed Aquinas backwards 13 yards and forced a pass. Kevon Franklin snagged the interception and returned the ball to the LC 41.
Runs by Ferguson and Willis setup a 4th-&-1 at the 50. Ferguson ran for seven over the left side for a first down at the A 43. Tevin Gartrell rushed for six. Willis gained five but an unsportsmanlike penalty pushed the Devils backwards to the A 48. The Devils returned to the attack with Ferguson rushing for 12 and Willis seven to the A 29. Three plays later Ferguson scored on a 21-yard untouched jaunt into the endzone. The PAT kick gave the Devils a 7-3 lead with four minutes left in the half.
The Devil Defense forced the Irish to punt on their next possession. Willis broke loose with only a single arm keeping him from heading to the endzone. His 18-yard gain put the Devils at the LC 45. Three plays later the Devils faced 4th-&-2 at the Irish 47 with six seconds left. Ferguson rushed for 14 with one second left on the clock. Lampkin connected with Elder for 32 yards to the one as time expired. A flag against the Devils was declined by Aquinas to end the half. Lincoln County led the Irish 7-3 at the break.
Opening the third quarter, Aquinas drove 10 plays to the LC 16. The Irish' 32-yard field goal attempt went wide right midway the quarter.
Lampkin scrambled for 18 yards with a facemask infraction tacking on 15 more to the LC 47. Two seven-yard runs by Ferguson earned a first down at the A 41. Ferguson added seven more before Lampkin made a first down by an inch. The Devils came up a yard short of a first down and turned the ball over with 1:28 left in the third quarter.
A 34-yard run by a fresh back was followed by a 29-yard run by the same back to put Aquinas back in the lead. The touchdown run came on the first play of the fourth quarter. With the kick, the Irish led 10-7 with 11:53 remaining.
Ferguson broke a 33-yard run to midfield before the drive fizzled and the Devils punted.
C. J. Zellars and Willis stopped Aquinas from making a first down on a short third down to force an Irish punt.
Starting from his 41, Ferguson rushed for 11. Willis then broke a 35-yard run, but an illegal block penalty cut the gain back to the A 27. The Devils were unable to make a first down and punted.
Aquinas picked up one first down before punting back to the Devils at the LC 37 with 2:22 left in the game. A play and a penalty lost eight yards. Lampkin ran for 11 yards but offsetting flags nullified the gain. Lampkin passed eight yards to Elder to midfield with one minute remaining. The two then connected for five more yards. A holding penalty cost the Devils 10 yards before a pass fell incomplete. The Devils' last gasp fourth down pass was intercepted to effectively end the game with less than 30 seconds remaining.
This Friday the Red Devils hit the road to visit the Screaming Devils in Warrenton. The Warren County team lost to Washington-Wilkes 22-19 on a final-minute pass. Those Devils are 2-2 with wins over Twiggs County and Portal. Former Red Devil star Cherard Freeman is again coaching the Warren County team. Warren County defeated the Red Devils 28-21 last year to claim its first victory in the series since 1971. Kickoff is set for 7:30. Go DEVILS!