LINCOLNTON - Two weeks later, against a different opponent, and in a different location than originally planned, Lincoln County's Red Devils kicked off their 2020 football season here last Friday with a hard-fought 24-14 loss to Jeff Davis High School.
Lincoln County spotted the much larger school a ten-point lead before scoring 14 points in 22 seconds to claim the halftime lead, 14-10. The two-platooning Yellow Jackets wore down the young Red Devils in the second half to claim the ten-point victory.
The Jackets outgained the Devils by 147 yards in the second half. The hot night and many Devils playing offense and defense took its toll on the locals after halftime.
Quarterback Keenon Lampkin, changing to jersey 2 for his senior season, had one of his best nights throwing the pigskin with nine completions in 11 attempts for 131 yards and two touchdowns. He also led the Devil rushing offense with 51 yards on four attempts.
Caleb Willis caught seven of the aerials for 86 yards and one touchdown. Willis also averaged 31 yards on four punts.
New head coach Lee Chomskis recognized before the contest that he has a very young team, with only five seniors and seven juniors. The Devils also lost two weeks of practice due to a positive COVID-19 result.
One impressive stat for the new coaching staff: the Devils had only three penalties for a total of 20 yards. The visitors tallied ten for 85.
The sweltering night began with two runs by the Devils but a holding flag stymied the drive. Jeff Davis rushed for 14 yards on its first play, and had a 19-yard run nullified by an illegal procedure flag. The two teams swapped punts, with the Jackets starting from the LC 29 after a 16-yard return. Three plays later the Jacket quarterback ran right and then slanted toward the goalposts on a 23-yard touchdown run. The PAT kick was good with 3:01 left in the opening quarter.
The Devils were a yard short of a first down on their next possession and punted. A Jacket ran loose for 43 yards to the Devil 18. The Devil defense held and Jeff Davis kicked a 29-yard field goal with just under 11 minutes left in the first half.
Down by ten points, the Devil offense didn't panic but came out working. Lampkin rushed for six before throwing ten yards to Willis. Lampkin passed again to Willis who made a fantastic one-hand grab on the far sideline for a 29-yard gain. Two plays later sophomore Jack Antonakos got behind the defenders, grabbed the pass from Lampkin, and dragged Jackets into the endzone for a 32-yard touchdown. Tristan Pia booted the PAT with 7:54 left in the half to reduce the deficit to 10-7.
On the following kickoff, Jeff Davis had a good return going until a Devil defender popped the pigskin loose. Tevin Gartrell was in the perfect spot to grab the ball mid-air and return the miscue ten yards. On the next play Lampkin found Willis at the left pylon at the goal-line. Willis outreached two defenders for the ball and scored as he struggled into the endzone. Pia was good on the extra point. The Devils now led 14-10 with 7:33 left in the half.
The teams moved the ball but didn't threaten the remainder of the first half.
The visitors took the second-half kickoff and ran off nine plays over seven minutes, but never crossed midfield. The teams swapped punts. The Jackets again drove, scoring from the five to cap a ten-play, 75-yard drive. The Devils trailed 17-14 with 8:37 left in the game.
The Devils earned two first downs before being stopped on fourth down at their 46. One of the visitors' many running backs scampered 44 yards for a touchdown with 2:15 remaining to all but seal the victory. An interception on the Devils' last offensive play ended any remaining hopes.
Lincoln County was originally scheduled to meet Clinch County in Statesboro September 5. That game was cancelled by Georgia Southern, and both teams found replacement opponents. Clinch County lost to Macon County last Friday night. Washington-Wilkes and Elbert County withdrew from their games last Friday due to COVID-19 test results.
The Devils have an open date this Friday before hosting another first-time opponent, Laney High from Augusta. Like Jeff Davis, the Wildcats are a Class AA school that will help the Devils get experience and prepare for their Region 8-A schedule. Kickoff September 18 will be at 7:30.