When an opposing coach checks the Lincoln County football schedule and sees their team is coming to Lincolnton on the Red Devils' Homecoming night, what must they think?
The Red Devils last lost a Homecoming game on Buddy Bufford Field 40 years ago, in 1971. A Larry Campbell-coached team has never lost its Homecoming game.
This year's game, against 6-1 Aquinas, was expected to be a bigger challenge, and the game last Friday night certainly proved to be that. The Red Devils didn't clinch the win until the fourth quarter, when Mikey McIntire scored twice to finish off a 44-22 victory.
The Red Devils allowed 315 yards in offense by the Irish, but nearly doubled that with 604 yards of their own. QB Denzel Gunby accounted for 362 yards with 98 yards rushing on 15 carries with one TD, and completed 7 of 16 pass attempts for 264 yards with 3 touchdowns. Mason Saggus scored twice on three receptions for 129 yards. Craig Jones led the rushing attack with 145 yards on 19 carries.
The win gives the Devils' sole possession of first place in Region 7-A with a 4-0 mark. If Wilkinson County defeats Warren County this Friday, the 7-A title could be decided in Irwinton November 4 when Lincoln County visits Wilkinson County. Warren, Washington-Wilkes, and Aquinas also remain in the hunt for the four 7-A playoff seeds. W-W plays Aquinas this Thursday on WJBF 6.2. The Tigers beat Warren County 34-13 last Friday.
Aquinas took the opening kickoff but was stopped by the Devil Defense short of a first down, forcing a punt. The Devils drove to the Irish 8 before James Spratlin booted a 27-yard field goal with 6:39 left in the first quarter. A 27-yard pass from Gunby to Tra Brown was the big gainer on the 9-play drive.
After an exchange of possessions, the Devils started from their 25. Saggus made a great catch and run for a 23-yard gain to midfield. Two plays later Jones broke loose for 33, down to the Irish 14. Jones gained 7 before Gunby ran in on the left side for the first LC touchdown of the game. Spratlin's kick gave the Devils a 10-0 lead with 44 seconds left in the first quarter.
That lead was short-lived, as Irish star running back Brendan Douglas rushed down the right side on a 73-yard jaunt with 27 seconds left in the period. The PAT kick cut the Devil lead to three points, 10-7.
As the Irish fans were still cheering, on the next play from scrimmage, Gunby found Saggus just behind the Aquinas defenders. Saggus snagged the pigskin about the 40 and outraced the Irish to the endzone. The 76-yard run with 12 seconds left in the quarter, and Spratlin's kick, restored the 10-point LC lead, 17-7.
The Devil Defense forced a fumble on the next Irish possession with Dayshawn Taylor recovering at the Aquinas 22. A penalty pushed the Devils back to the 37. Three plays later Lincoln faced fourth-and-three at the 30. Gunby found Saggus wide open near the goalline for the 30-yard TD pass with 9:31 left in the half. The kick put the Devils up 23-7. The Devils kept the Irish penned into Aquinas territory for the remainder of the half.
Lincoln County took the opening kickoff of the second half. A 26-yard pass from Gunby to Zireycus Letman gave the Devils a first down at midfield. The drive fizzled at the 26, with the Irish taking over on downs. Three plays later an Irish running back broke loose down the left side on a 64-yard touchdown run. Douglas ran in for two to cut the lead to 8 points, 23-15.
The Irish fans thought momentum had really shifted when Aquinas recovered a fumble on the Devils' next offensive play. The Irish were in great position to try and tie the game. Starting from the LC 24, a penalty and a tenacious Devil Defense sent the Irish 30 yards back into their territory. This forced a punt on fourth-and-40 from the Irish 46.
Saggus returned the punt about 30 yards. Three plays later Gunby connected with Jones on a 58-yard pass-and-run play. Jones scored with 2:59 left in the third. Spratlin's kick restored the 15-point lead, 30-15.
But the Irish kept coming back. Douglas scored on a 13-yard run with 11:36 left in the game. The score was setup by a 32-yard pass to the LC 13.
Leading 30-22, Gunby scrambled for 38 yards to the Irish 30. Three plays later Jones rushed for 20 to the 4. McIntire scored from there with great blocking on the left side of the line. The Devils were up 37-22 with 9:36 left.
The Irish picked up one first down before freshman Jamar Norman grabbed his second interception of the game at the LC 31 with 8:01 left. The Devils put together a 12-play scoring drive that took nearly six minutes off the clock. McIntire scored from the one standing up. Big plays on the drive were a 24-yard pass from Gunby to Sherrod Jones, and 12 and 13 yard runs by McIntire to start the drive.
The Irish threatened one last time, but the Devil Defense again stopped the Irish to preserve the 44-22 victory.
The Devils host winless Twiggs County this Friday night on Senior Recognition night.