Lincoln County's stout defense and strong running game powered the Red Devils over Pace Academy in the first round of the 2010 Class A playoffs. Speedsters Craig Jones, Ercell Daniel, and Sherrod Jones broke the game open enroute to a 49-6 thumping.
Lincoln County will hit the road this Friday to Rome to play Region 6-A champion Darlington. The Tigers are 9-1, and pounded Prince Avenue Christian 49-13 in the opening round. Kickoff is set for 7:30 for the game at Darlington's Chris Hunter Stadium. The school is located at 1014 Cave Spring Road Southwest, and the stadium is across the street, to the east of the school. Parking is south of the stadium.
The Red Devils have played Darlington once, in the 1998 Class A championship game; the Tigers won the title 16-6 in Lincolnton. The Tigers have a strong running game with good passing. Their high-powered offense will be a stern test for the Red Devils. They score nearly 40 points per game on average, and are 4-0 against Class A playoff teams. Darlington's only loss was by 5 points to Class AAA playoff team Cartersville.
Lincoln County won the toss and chose to put its offense on the field first. Mason Saggus returned the opening kickoff to the LC 37. Franklin Sherman rushed for 19, with Saggus running for 23. Craig Jones picked up 7 and then 9 yards before scoring from the 1 with 9:17 left in the opening period. Dylan Arthur continued his excellent kicking season with a successful PAT boot.
Pace Academy, playing against its first public school opponent and in its first playoff game, started from its 27 but quickly moved to the LC 45 on a 53-yard pass to the Knight's best receiver. Sherman grabbed the first of four Pace interceptions to end the threat at the LC 41.
Sherman took off running again, for 25 yards to the Pace 34. Two plays later Sherman ran for 12 before Ercell Daniel picked up five. Facing 3rd-and-14 at the 15, Sherman connected with Bond Turner for 10 yards. On fourth down, Sherman found a wide-open Rusty Scott for a 5-yard touchdown pass. Arthur's kick gave the Devils a 14-0 lead with 4:23 left in the first quarter.
The Knights then used their precision passing to pick up first downs and put themselves in scoring position. The 17-play, 80-yard drive was capped by a 1-yard run with 7:04 left in the second quarter. The nine-plus minute drive included 10 pass attempts. Their kick failed, leaving the Devils ahead 14-6.
Ercell Daniel took the succeeding kickoff and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown, had it not been for an illegal block that pushed the Devils back to near midfield. Lincoln County's drive stalled at the Pace 36.
The two teams exchanged interceptions on their next possessions. The Devil Defense forced a Knight punt, which Daniel returned 90 yards for what would have been a touchdown, had not another yellow flag been thrown. After the blocking penalty was assessed, the Devils started from their 10 with only seven seconds left in the first half. Sherman handed to Jones, who broke through the middle, cut to the right sideline, and outraced the Knights to the endzone. The PAT kick gave the Devils a 21-6 halftime lead.
The Devil Defense offered a stout rushing defense in the first half, with the Knights having minus-2 yards rushing. In total yards, the Devils led 286-134 at the break.
Pace Academy came out in the third quarter and went back to their passing game. Their big receiver caught a 29-yard pass to midfield, but Darrien Gladmon snatched their next pass attempt and returned it 30 yards to the Pace 42. Sherman ran for 12 to the 30. Daniel broke two tackles on his way to the endzone for a touchdown that would be counted. The Devils led 28-6 with 10:32 left in the third.
After a Pace punt, Garrett Mohr entered the game at quarterback and rushed for 10 yards on two carries. Jones carried for 13 to the Pace 49. Mohr then found Tyler Banks open on the right side for the 49-yard TD reception. Arthur's kick put the Devils up 35-6 with 8:10 left in the third.
Another Pace possession ended in another punt. The Red Devils moved from their 45 to the Pace 29 before a fumble gave the ball back to the Knights. The Devil Defense again held tough, with the Devils starting from their 36 after another punt. Sherrod Jones broke free for 59 yards to the 5. One play later he scored from the 6 with 3:15 left in the third. The PAT kick set the score at 42-6.
With the Devils playing substitutes, the Knights moved into Devil territory before Craig Jones intercepted at the LC 9 and returned the pigskin out to the LC 38. One play later Sherrod Jones rambled for 39 to the Pace 22. He then had carries of 4 and 8 before a personal foul penalty gave the Devils 1st-and-goal at the 5. Sherrod did the honors with 7:29 remaining in the game. Max Ashmore booted the last extra point for the final 49-6 margin. The final quarter was played under the GHSA's mercy rules.
The Jones boys accounted for 273 yards rushing: Craig 12 for 149 and Sherrod 9 for 124, and both with two touchdowns. Sherman ran 5 times for 73 yards, and completed 6 of 11 pass attempts for 47 yards and 1 TD.
(Our thanks to Sparky Newsome and The Lincoln Journal for the photos)