BUENA VISTA - Lincoln County fought to the end but came up short 28-21 in its quarterfinal battle with Marion County here last Friday night.
The Red Devils finish the 2019 season with a 9-3 mark, which is much improved over last year's disappointing 4-6 season. The three losses were by a total of 13 points, and were to three playoff teams.
All in all, this season was an excellent year for Lincoln County. The season included revenge wins over Washington-Wilkes, Warren County, and Hancock Central, and a tie for the Region 7-A Division B top spot. A playoff win over Commerce marked the Devils' return to the playoffs.
For his senior season, Kolbi Ferguson rushed for 1,708 yards and 33 touchdowns on 248 carries to lead the Devil offense. He also passed, received, returned kickoffs, and played defense. Many players saw constant duty on offense, defense, and special teams.
Colton Willis carried 110 times for 699 yards and 10 touchdowns. Keenon Lampkin completed 22 of 59 passes for 397 yards and 3 TDs with 3 interceptions. Tank Elder was the leading receiver with 9 catches for 144 yards.
Friday night, Ferguson rushed 24 times for 156 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles. Lampkin ran a dozen times for 53 yards, and Willis carried nine times for 49 yards. The Devils ran 59 offensive plays for 281 yards. Marion County tallied 299 yards (213 on the ground and 86 passing) on 42 plays. The Devils earned 17 first downs to 13 for the home team.
The Eagles took the opening kickoff and quickly moved down the gridiron on the running of their quick and shifty quarterback. His run of 32 yards setup his one-yard touchdown run just over two minutes into the game.
A muffed kickoff return meant the Devils had to start from their nine. Lampkin called his own number and rushed for thirteen yards. After an illegal procedure flag, Ferguson broke his longest run on the night for 63 yards to the Eagle 20. Lampkin ran for seven, followed by three by Ferguson to the 10. Kevon Franklin carried for two before Ferguson scored on an eight-yard run. J. T. Bundrick's PAT kick was good to tie the game at 7-7 with 7:24 left in the opening quarter.
Marion County, with a single loss in 2019, responded with a 24-yard kickoff return by their primary running back. He then rushed for fourteen. Three plays later the Eagle receiver got behind the Devil defenders for a 36-yard touchdown reception. The extra point kick put the Eagles up 14-7 with 5:11 left in the first period.
Lincoln County picked up two first downs to move back into Eagle territory before a pass was tipped and intercepted, and returned to the LC 49. The Devil Defense kept Marion from a first down and forced a punt to the LC 19.
The Devils were again able to move the ball on the ground before turning the pigskin over on downs at the MC 26. The Devil Defense forced a punt, with Lincoln starting from its 31. A penalty and a sack put the Devils in a hole, leading to a pass attempt that was intercepted at the line of scrimmage and returned to the LC 21. Two plays later the Eagles scored on a 19-yard pass with 3:05 left in the half. The Devils trailed 21-7 at the half, but the 14-point deficit didn't dishearten the Devils.
Tank Elder returned the second half kickoff 20 yards to the LC 34, and the Red Devils went to work. Ferguson, Willis, and Lampkin rotated rushing duties. Facing 4th-&-2 at the MC 33, Ferguson gained 10. A four-yard run by Lampkin earned a first down at the MC 12. Two runs and a penalty netted one yard. A third-down pass fell incomplete. Lampkin then found Ferguson open in the center of the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown pass. Bundrick's kick cut the Eagle lead to 21-14 with five minutes left in the third quarter.
The Devil Defense kept the Eagles from a first down. The Eagles had problems with low punt snaps earlier, and this time the punter was unable to get the kick off. He tried to rush for the first down, but the Devil Defense popped the ball loose. Lampkin scooped the pigskin and ran about ten yards to the endzone for a Devil touchdown. The kick tied the game with 3:11 remaining in the third.
A 28-yard run on the next Eagle drive gave Marion County a first down at the LC 28. Ferguson stopped the third-down run for only a yard gain, leaving the Eagles six yards short of the first down. A fourth down pass was almost intercepted, but the Devils took over on downs with 11 minutes left in the game.
The Devils were unable to move the ball and punted to the Eagles at their 48. Three plays later their main back broke through on a 27-yard touchdown run. With the kick, the Eagles led 28-21 with just over nine minutes left.
Lincoln County drove into Eagle territory. Facing 3rd-&-10 with 3:32 to go, Lampkin passed 10 yards to Miles Parks for what looked to be a key first down. The gain was nullified due to a illegal-man-downfield penalty. Two passes fell incomplete to end the threat. The Eagles ran for a first down to run out the final minutes of the game and end the Devils' excellent season.
This was the first quarterfinal visit for the Devils since 2012. Friday was the first Thanksgiving week game since that year. Several busloads of fans made the nearly four-hour trip to Buena Vista for the game.
Lincoln County will be hit hard by graduation, and will face some new region and non-region opponents in 2020 due to the GHSA realignment process.
Marion County will face Pelham and Irwin County will host Clinch County in this week's Class A Public semifinals. Clinch defeated Warren County 38-16. Abbeville was upset in the SC Class AA state semifinals in its bid for a state-record fifth consecutive state championship.