LINCOLNTON - If a defeat could be considered a win, Friday's night 14-13 loss to arch-rival Washington-Wilkes might fit that description for the Lincoln County Red Devils.
The Tigers entered the game as number eight in the AJC Class A Public ranking. Three of their five wins had been shutouts, with only 27 points allowed. The W-W offense had averaged 45 points per game, with 34 being their lowest. Almost no one expected this game to be close.
LCRD Head coach Lee Chomski employed a clock-control strategy to limit the opportunities for the powerful Tiger offense. The statistics show just how well this worked. The previously-unstoppable Tiger offense was held to only 78 yards. W-W ran only 25 plays in the game, compared to 60 for the home team. The Devils had possession of the pigskin for over 36.5 minutes, including two drives of over seven minutes.
Keenon Lampkin completed six of nine pass attempts for 78 yards and one TD, and gained 37 yards on 16 runs. Caleb Willis caught three passes for 33 yards and the TD, and completed his only pass attempt for 29 yards. Colton Willis led the ground game with 51 yards and a score on 15 carries.
The Devils got off to a good start when Tevin Gartrell returned the opening kickoff 35 yards to the WW 40. Lincoln burned over seven minutes off the clock, including converting two 4th-&-1's for first downs. A 32-yard field goal attempt went wide left with 4:46 remaining in the opening period.
The Tigers came out throwing from the 20, but two penalties pushed them back to their 5. A 37-yard punt was downed at their 42.
Colton Willis rushed for eight yards for a first down at the WW 31. Facing 4th-&-5 at the 26 as the second quarter began, Lampkin found Gartrell open on the left for a 10-yard gain and first down. Gartrell then rushed for four. Colton Willis gained eight for 1st-&-goal at the four. C. J. Zellars gained three. Colton Willis then went up the middle for the final two yards with 9:16 left in the first half. Tristan Tankersley's PAT kick gave the Devils a 7-0 lead.
The Devils almost succeeded in their surprise onside kickoff attempt, but the Tigers recovered at their 44. Aided by a 15-yard dead-ball personal-foul penalty, W-W drove the 56 yards on seven plays. The Tigers scored on a five-yard run with 6:12 left before the half. The PAT kick tied the game at 7-all.
LCHS went steadily back to work on offense. A holding penalty on the kickoff return started the Devils at their 20. Five short runs and a facemask flag on W-W put the Devils at midfield. Lampkin lateraled to Caleb Willis, who then passed 29 yards to Franklin Brown on the left sideline at the 21. Two runs gained seven before a third-down pass fell incomplete in the endzone. A 32-yard field goal attempt was blocked with 28 seconds left in the half. The game was tied 7-7 at the break.
The Washington-Wilkes returner took the second half kickoff on the right side, cut to the center, and went untouched to pay dirt. The Tigers led 14-7 only 13 seconds into the second half.
Heavy quarterback pressure on third down resulted in the Devils' punting to end their next possession. Caleb Willis snatched an interception to end the Tiger drive and give his Devils the pigskin at the LC 38.
Runs by Colton Willis and Gartrell setup 3rd-&-6 at the WW 46. Lampkin connected with Brown at the 22 in a near repeat of Brown's earlier reception. Lampkin then laid up the ball on the left side of the endzone to allow Caleb Willis to grab the pigskin and score a touchdown. The PAT kick was blocked, leaving the Devils trailing 14-13 with 4:29 left in the third.
The Devil Defense again did its job, stopping the Tigers for a three-&-out. The W-W punt stopped rolling at the LC 14.
Lincoln County ran off 15 plays and used nearly eight minutes of clock time. A blitz on 4th-&-6 at the 30 ended the drive with a 14-yard loss to the WW 44 with 4:49 remaining in the game.
The Devils again stopped the Tigers, which had their quarterback try a quick-kick punt on fourth down. That punt went only eight yards, giving LC the ball at its 45.
Lampkin connected with Gartrell for 11 yards and a first down at the WW 41. An offsides flag and a sack setup a 4th-&-19 for the Devils to face with 1:49 remaining. Lampkin connected with Caleb Willis, but the play was only good for 10 yards with 1:39 left. The Tigers were able to run out the clock and escape with a 14-13 victory.
The Red Devils will play their last home regular season game next Friday when they welcome Greene County on Senior Appreciation Night. Greene is having a tough year, as the Tigers are 1-6 overall and 0-2 in Region 8-A. Commerce will visit Washington this Friday before hosting our Devils November 20. Senior Appreciation festivities will occur prior to the 7:30 kickoff so fans are asked to arrive early.