BUDDY BUFFORD FIELD, LINCOLNTON -- It was billed as a defensive clash, but it was more a war featuring two stout defenses. Our Red Devils came up on the short end, losing 7-0.
The second-ranked Raiders of Savannah Christian came into the game with reportedly the best defense in Class A, and who can argue. Our Devils did outgain the Raider offense 188 yards to 98, but 6 turnovers helped hand Lincoln County its first home playoff loss since 1999, ending a string of 22 wins.
Our #3-ranked Devils managed only 55 yards rushing in the game, with about half that on one play. In the second half 10 carries gained only 2 yards. In a Lincoln County rarity, the Devils attempted more passes than runs, completing 14 of 26 for 133 yards, but with 4 interceptions.
Seven times our Devils got inside the Savannah Christian 30, but were never able to get into the endzone.
Neither offense got much going in the first quarter, with punts giving the Raiders good field position at the LC 49. The drive was halted at the 30 on an incomplete pass. On third down, LC fumbled with the Raiders recovering at the 21. Three runs gave the visitors 1st-&-goal at the 10. Their star fullback scored from there with 9:34 left in the second quarter.
The Devils came back with their longest gain of the game, a 26-yard run by Franklin Sherman to the SC 29. The stiff Raider defense did its job again with a 4th-down pass being intercepted at the 25. Big Red's Defense was also on its game all game long, and held the Raiders to 6 yards on 3 plays. Savannah Christian then tried a fake punt, but their back was thrown for a 4-yard loss, giving our Devils the ball at the SC 27. A pass from Garrett Mohr to Rusty Scott moved the Devils to the 21 before a 4th-down pass fell incomplete.
The Devils forced another SC punt, starting from the LC 32 with 32 seconds left in the half. A pass from Mohr to DeVonte Wright was good for 21 to the SC 47. Two plays later the same combination was good for 12 yards, and then 11, to the SC 24 before time ran out.
The defensive struggle continued after intermission. Late in the third the Devils drove from their 40 to the SC 26 before turning the ball over on downs as the fourth quarter began. The Devils got the ball right back when Marquis Parks recovered a fumble at the SC 30. A pass from Mohr to Steven Morris gave the Devils a first down at the 15. The Raider defense again proved tough, pusing the Devils back. A fourth down pass was intercepted at the SC 5.
The Raider offense managed only 4 yards on three plays, setting up a punt from the endzone. The Devils blocked the punt, and almost recovered in the endzone for a touchdown. The ball trickled just across the goalline where Tavious McGahee fell on it on the half-yard line with 6:56 left in the game. A quarterback sneak gained nothing before an illegal procedure call pushed the Devils back to the 5. The quarterback was caught for a 4-yard loss to the 9. Sherman then connected with McGahee who was stopped just short of the endzone. A 4th-down pass was intercepted at the 5 with 4:21 left.
The Devil Defense again stopped the Raiders, forcing a punt with 2:01 left. After an incompletion, a completed pass was fumbled with the Raiders recovering at the LC 44 with 1:46 left. They were able to run out the clock and secure the victory.
Savannah Christian will play Darlington in the semifinals.
Our Devils finish the season at 11-2, a great record considering the graduation losses and the season-ending injury to A. G. Middlebrooks in the fifth game of the year. A region championship, 11 wins, an overtime victory over Washington-Wilkes, and the eighth straight trip to the quarterfinals - the 2009 Red Devils have much to be proud of!