Our Lincoln County Red Devils jumped out to a quick 21-0 lead Friday night in Rochelle, but it was not enough against the 400-yard offensive onslaught staged by the Wilcox County Patriots. Our Devils' defense of the last 2 Class A state football titles ends with a 34-24 loss in the quarterfinals.
Our Devils finish the 2007 season with a 11-2 mark after making the quarterfinals for the 6th straight year and the 10th time in the last 11 seasons. The loss ends a 12-game playoff win streak.
The Patriots will face Athens Academy (14-13 winners over Brookstone) at 9 AM Friday in the Georgia Dome. Clinch County will meet ECI in the noon contest that day. ECI beat Warren County 34-17 and Clinch defeated Fellowship Christian 26-13.
Friday night's loss unfortunately goes in the record book for "The Campbell Years" as the most points allowed in a playoff game (matching 1998's 35-34 semifinal win over GAC), and the largest lead (21-0) lost with game lost. The previous most points allowed in a postseason loss was in 1994's 33-29 game against Brooks County. The most playoff points allowed in school history goes back to the Devil's first playoff game in 1949, a 41-6 loss to Jonesboro. The 34 points is the seventh most allowed by a Larry Campbell team.
Going into the game, Devil faithful felt they would need some breaks to be able play with the talented speedsters from Wilcox County. As it turned out, even great breaks were not enough.
Before a big crowd in Rochelle, the Devils showed they were ready to play when they stopped the Patriots on their first drive and forced a punt attempt. Lincoln County blocked the punt, recovering on the Patriot 15. A. G. Middlebrooks rushed to the 4. Jafabian Green gained 3 before Austin Goldman scored from the 1 on a quarterback sneak with 9:27 to go in the first.
A penalty and good defense pushed the Patriots to inside their 10 on their next possession. DeChane Willis grabbed the first of two interceptions at the 32 and returned to the 6. Green went left side and scored with 7:50 left in the opening period.
Another great defensive stand forced another Patriot punt. This time the Devil coaches called for the return, and Alex Ellis obliged, streaking down the left side past the coaches and into the endzone some 49 yards later. Vance Tarver's kick gave our Devils a 21-0 lead just 6:15 into the game.
A penalty on the ensuing kickoff return put the Patriots at their 20. Another great defensive play caught Wilcox at the 1. An incomplete pass and a delay of game penalty moved the Patriots to their half-yard line on third down.
And then, as great teams do, Wilcox County righted their ship and got their offense in gear. A 37-yard pass got the Pats out of that deep hole, and momentum sharply changed direction. Runs and a pass pushed the ball to the Lincoln 38. A big pass play gave the Pats 1st-&-goal at the 1, and their big fullback scored from their 1 with 1:42 left in the first half. A blocked PAT kick left the score at 21-6 Lincoln.
A personal foul penalty killed the Devils' next drive. Three Patriot passes fell incomplete, and a bad punt snap set the Devils up in great shape at the Pat 9. The Wilcox defense stiffened, and our Devils managed only a 25-yard field goal by Tarver with 9:25 left in the half.
The Pats continued to roar back, scoring on a 57-yard pass with 7:44 left. Our team tried a 40-yard field goal that fell short, giving Wilcox the ball again at their 20 with 4:01 left in the half. Runs and passes setup a 31-yard TD pass with 45 seconds left. The 2-point PAT run by the Patriot QB cut the halftime lead to 24-22.
The Patriots took the lead with 3:34 left in the third quarter on a 11-yard run by their fullback. The PAT pass failed, leaving the margin at 28-24 Wilcox. Our Devils moved down the field, but came up short on a 4th-&-2 at the Wilcox 34.
Wilcox used key passes to setup a 2-yard run by that fullback again, giving the Pats a 34-24 lead with just under 7 minutes left in the contest. Our Devils moved back into Wilcox territory before the drive fizzled. Wilcox was able to essentially run out the final 4 minutes to secure their first visit to the Dome.
The Wilcox offense totalled over 400 yards in offense and 17 first downs, numbers not often attained against our Devil defense. The Patriots speed and skill, coupled with their bruising running backs, proved too much to overcome in the second half.