OCILLA - Lincoln County jumped out to a 14-point lead just four minutes into the game before Irwin County's strong running game and tenacious defense won the second-round playoff game 51-27.
The Red Devils close the 2021 season with an 8-4 record. The Devils made the playoffs for the 47th time in the last 48 years. Lincoln County returns all but seven players and are looking forward to 2022.
Senior Tevin Gartrell ended his Devil football career with 14 carries for 156 yards and two touchdowns. For the season, he rushed for 1,429 yards and 16 TDs, averaging over nine yards a carry.
Junior Trey Huff completed two of seven pass attempts for 68 yards. For the year, he completed 46 of 92 attempts for 806 yards and six TDs.
Semaji Jenkins started the game with a 25-yard kickoff return to the LC 40. A chop block penalty pushed the Devils back to their 31. Gartrell broke two tackles near the line of scrimmage and sped into the end zone. The 69-yard touchdown run came just over two minutes into the game. The kick went wide left, but the Devils led the two-time defending Class A Public champion 6-0.
The Indians returned the pigskin 10 yards before fumbling with Aiden Deutschle recovering for the Devils at the Indian 36. Jenkins gained four with an incomplete pass into the end zone following. Huff broke one tackle at the line and sprinted 33 yards to paydirt. C. J. Zellars ran for two points. With 8:57 remaining in the first quarter, the Devils owned a 14-0 lead over the powerful Indians.
Irwin County started at their 45 but only gained four yards on its next possession. A 41-yard punt started the visitors at the LC 10. Two rushing plays lost a yard. A blitz by Irwin sacked Huff in the end zone for a safety. Midway the first quarter, Lincoln led 14-2.
The Devils kicked to the Indians after the safety, which the home team returned 20 yards to the LC 45. Five plays later Irwin scored on a 20-yard run. The Indians cut the lead to 14-9 with the PAT kick at 4:25 left in the first.
LCHS was unable to earn a first down on its next possession with Judson Beggs punting to the Indian 25. The incessant Irwin County running game took over with 75 yards on a dozen plays including five first downs. The Indians scored on a one-yard run with 8:17 left before the bands played. Irwin first lined up for two points, but a delay-of-game walkoff resulted in a PAT kick. The Indians led 16-14.
A 16-yard run by Gartrell and a 33-yard pass from Huff to Jenkins gave the Devils a first down at the Irwin 17. Two penalties and a stiff defense led to 4th-&-18 at the IC 25. Quarterback pressure on fourth down resulted in an incompletion with the Indians taking over on downs. An Irwin rusher broke loose for 40 yards to the LC 35. Three short runs gained a first down at the 25. The Indian QB found a receiver wide open in the end zone with 1:38 left in the half. The extra point kick made the halftime score 23-14 Irwin.
The Devils opened the second half with an onsides kick effort, but the home team recovered at its 48. A holding penalty set the Indians back 10 yards, but a 34-yard completion on the next play took care of that. A 24-yard scamper setup a 4-yard touchdown run by the quarterback. The PAT put the #1 team ahead by 16, 30-14, with 10:48 remaining in the third.
Three Devil offensive plays gained zero yards. Irwin took over at their 41 after the Beggs punt. Two runs setup a 42-yard touchdown ramble. With the kick, the Indians held a commanding 37-14 lead with 8:24 left in the third.
As was true all season, the Red Devils did not give up. After two penalties, LCHS faced 3rd-&-30 at its 23. Franklin Brown made a great catch of a Huff pass along the sideline by the Devil bench. The 35-yard pass was good to the Indian 42. Jenkins gained three and then eight yards. Josiah Jones broke two tackles and scored on a 31-yard run with 4:13 remaining. Cameron Miller booted the PAT to cut the margin to 16, 37-21.
The Devils tried another onside kick, but an Indian scooped the ball and scored on a 50-yard return. The extra point kick made the score 44-21 with 4:06 left in the third.
The two teams exchanged punts with the Devils starting from their 33 as the fourth quarter began. Gartrell turned the corner on the left side and was gone to the end zone on a 39-yard gallop. The kick failed, but the Devils had closed the gap to 44-27 with 6:49 remaining in the game.
The Indians took over at midfield after another onside kick attempt. Six plays later Irwin County scored on a nine-yard pass with 3:27 remaining. The Indians led 51-27.
The Devils started from their 45 but fumbled on fourth down after apparently earning a first down at midfield. Irwin ran out the clock for the final two minutes.
The 51 points scored by Irwin is the most allowed in a playoff game by the Red Devils. The previous high was 41 in their first playoff game, against Jonesboro in 1949 (41-6). The losing margin of 33 is tied for second most in Devil history, behind the 35 difference in 1949.
The Indians will host #3 Macon County this Friday in the quarterfinals. Brooks County, the #2 team, whipped Washington-Wilkes 61-28 and will travel to Warrenton this Friday to play the Screaming Devils.
Stat - LC - IC
First Downs - 13 - 19
Rushing - 42/250 - 37.343
Passing - 2/7/68/0 - 3/8/68/0
Punting - 4/39.0 - 2/37.5
Penalties - 7/65 - 9/105
Fumbles/Lost - 2/1 - 1/1