Lincoln County held a 14-12 halftime lead before Wilkinson County broke two long plays in the second half to capture the Region 7-A Football Championship with a 26-14 win in Lincolnton last Friday.
The Red Devils will host Pace Academy this Friday night in the first round of the Class A playoffs. The Knights are 9-1 and have won by an average of 14 points per game. Their only loss was to strong Wesleyan a month ago. Pace Academy, now in its third year of football, is located on West Paces Ferry Road in Atlanta. The Knights were 3-7 their first two seasons. The winner will play the victor of the Prince Avenue Christian at Darlington game.
Last Friday's game turned into a aerial festival as school records may have been set for most pass attempts and completions by the Devils (29 of 51) and by a Devil player (Franklin Sherman 24 of 42 for 224 yards), as well as total completions, attempts, and passing yards in a game (38 of 75 for 557) and offensive plays in a game (138). Wilkinson totaled 62 plays for 502 yards, compared to 76 for 374 for our Devils.
Bond Turner led the Devil receiving corps with 10 catches for 101 yards. Tyler Banks caught 9 for 70 yards. Rusty Scott had 5 receptions for 64 yards and one touchdown, and Mason Saggus caught 5 for 50 yards.
The Warriors were stopped cold on their first possession. The Red Devils took over on their 31, but moved to the WC 31 when Sherman found Saggus for 38 yards. The next play was to be a "hook and trailer", but a fumble turned the ball over to Wilkinson on their 35.
Three plays lost a yard, and the Warriors attempted a punt but the snap was high and the Devils took over at theWC 9. One play later Sherman connected with Scott for 10 yards and the touchdown with 8:19 left in the first quarter. The PAT kick was low, but the Devils led 6-0.
The Warriors came right back, starting from their 20. A 43-yard run moved the visitors to the LC 27. After a penalty and two incompletions, a 27-yard pass put Wilkinson at the 5. Three plays later a 5-yard pass tied the game. Wilkinson tried running for two, but the effort failed and the game was tied with 4:21 left in the opening quarter.
After an exchange of punts, Lincoln County started from its 14. Sherman passed to Turner for 16 and then 5 yards to the LC 35. Three plays later Sherman hit Banks for 9. Sherman ran for 16, and Ercell Daniel for 10, to the WC 31 as the second quarter started. Sherman ran for 12, then connected with Scott for 17 to the 2. An illegal substitution penalty moved the ball to the 1, and Steven Morris went up the middle from there for a touchdown with 11:07 left in the second quarter. Sherman passed to Scott to increase the Devils' lead to 14-6.
Late in the second the Devils failed on a fourth down at the WC 34. Wilkinson passed its way down the field and scored on a 1-yard run with 0:58 left in the half. The PAT pass failed, leaving Lincoln County with a 14-12 halftime lead.
A lost fumble at midfield ended the Red Devils' first possession of the second half. Daniel grabbed a Warrior pass to end their next possession. A Devil punt and Wilkinson penalty started the Warriors at their 8. After an incompletion, Wilkinson found their big tight-end open on the right side. He broke two tackles and rambled 92 yards for the go-ahead score with 5:04 left in the third. He ended the night with 9 catches for 195 yards and two touchdowns. The PAT pass was good for two points, and Lincoln trailed 20-14.
The Devils drove back into Warrior territory before the drive stalled at the WC 35. Wilkinson moved to the LC 38 before Daniel grabbed his second interception of the game at the LC 1. Three passes and an interference penalty put the Devils at the WC 46 before they punted.
Wilkinson started from their 11, and two passes put the Warriors at their 43. A Warrior running back scooted down the left side and then cut back right to reach the endzone. The 57-yard run put the Warriors up 26-14 with 5:37 left. The PAT pass attempt failed.
Lincoln County fought back, moving to the WC 35 before an interception ended the threat. After forcing a punt, the Devils again moved into Warrior territory before time ran out.
Wilkinson County wins the region and top seed, with Lincoln County second, Warren County third, and Washington-Wilkes fourth. In the first round of plays, Wilkinson will host Holy Innocents. Warren County will travel to Norcross to take on Wesleyan, and Washington-Wilkes will visit McDonough to play undefeated Eagles Landing Christian Academy, the 5-A champ.