Lincoln County's speed and offensive line were too much for the visiting Harlem Bulldogs last Friday night as the Red Devils started their 2011 campaign with a surprising 69-6 win over the larger school.
While the Devils were impressive in their scrimmage against Thomson the previous week, real-game experience is more of a tell-tale than practice or make-believe games. The work last Friday will help as the Devils travel to Abbeville this Friday to take on the Palmetto State's defending Class A champions.
Craig Jones led the rushing attack with 122 yards and one touchdown on only 10 carries. Sherrod Jones rushed 5 times for 59 yards. Hard-hitting fullback Dayshawn Taylor carried only 4 times for 29 yards, but 3 of those carries ended in the endzone. Quadarious Hunter gained 70 yards on only 3 carries. The big surprise was freshman Jamar Norman who was nearly unstoppable. with 107 yards on 4 touches with 2 touchdowns. Norman broke runs of 60 and 44 yards in the second half.
Denzel Gunby, making his first varsity start at quarterback, completed 4 of 13 attempts for 61 yards. Mason Saggus was the leading receiver with 3 grabs for 52 yards.
Maybe because of the sweltering heat, the game got off to a slow start. The two teams exchanged punts on their first possessions. Harlem drove to the LC 28 on their second drive before incomplete passes stalled the drive and inexperience-induced penalties pushed the Bulldogs back to midfield.
The Devils took over at their 20 and quickly marched down the field. Craig Jones rushed for two first downs before Gunby found Saggus for 18 yards to the Harlem 35. Craig rambled for 19, then 8, then 2. Taylor scored from the 7 as the horn ending the first quarter sounded. James Spratlin booted the first of 9 extra points on the night.
A bad snap over the Bulldog punter's head ended the next Harlem drive, with the home team taking over at the one. Sherrod Jones did the honors with 9:38 left in the half.
Another Harlem possession ended with three-and-out. The Devils drove 61 yards on 9 plays. Craig scored from the 9 with four minutes left in the half.
Harlem fumbled at its 29 with Zireycus Letman scooping the pigskin and scampering untouched 33 yards. Spratlin's PAT gave the Devils a 28-0 lead with 2:55 left in the half.
The Bulldog fans then got their only chance of the night to celebrate as Alonzo Hill took the kickoff on his 9 and went the distance for the only Harlem score.
But the Devils weren't satisfied with a 22-point halftime advantage. Craig picked up 62 yards on 3 carries on the next drive, with Taylor scoring from the 5 with 1:32 left.
Sherrod Jones also proved valuable on defense as he recovered a second Bulldog fumble at the Harlem 13. Three plays later Taylor was unstoppable from the 13 with 23 seconds left in the first half.
With a 42-6 halftime score, the second half was played under the GHSA's clock-running mercy rule. With Price Rogers taking over at QB, the Devils remained red hot on offense. Sherrod scored on a 20-yard run with 9:35 remaining in the third.
After a Bulldog punt, the Devils started from their 35. Freshman Norman broke loose down the right sideline, pushed out at the 5 to save the touchdown. He got that on the next play with 5:24 left in the third.
After the substituted defense held Harlem again, Norman went back to work. He was caught for a two-yard loss on first down, but it was only a momentary setback. On the next play he went 44 yards for his second touchdown with 16 seconds left in the third. The Devils led 63-6.
After another punt, another backup runner was put into the game. Hunter darted 70 yards for a touchdown, but an illegal block cut the gain to 44 yards. He gained 24 and 2 yards on the next two plays before Rogers scored from the 10 midway the fourth. A penalty caused the PAT attempt to be from the 18 instead of the 3, and the kick barely missed.
Freshman Jalen Wade ended the Bulldogs last drive with an interception with 19 seconds left.
(Our thanks to The Lincoln Journal for the game photos.)