IRWINTON- Lincoln County's Red Devils left no doubt as to the best Region 7-A team in 2011 with a 35-0 whipping of Wilkinson County here last Friday night. The Devils will host the Commerce Tigers in the first round of playoffs this Friday at Buddy Bufford Field.
The Red Devils played what may have been their most complete game of the season against the once-beaten Warriors. Wilkinson, the 7-A champ and a state semifinalist a year ago, was ranked as high as #3 this season. Its only loss coming into the game was a 24-21 defeat by Aquinas when the Warriors were missing some players due to injury.
Lincoln County controlled the rushing game, running up 323 yards on 49 carries. Craig Jones led the way with 104 yards on 16 carries with two touchdowns, leaving the senior 17 yards shy of 1,000 for the season, despite missing one game due to injury. Mike McIntire carried 19 times for 87 yards. QB Denzel Gunby rushed 9 times for 80 yards.
Wilkinson managed only 46 yards on 24 carries, including a net loss of 8 yards rushing in the second half. The Warriors attempted 28 passes, with their receivers catching 14 for 137 yards. Red Devils intercepted four times, with two being returned for touchdowns.
The Red Devils took the opening possession, but a bad snap on first down lost four yards. Gunby made up for that quickly with a 49-yard jaunt to the Warrior 20. Craig Jones scored from there with 11:07 left in the first quarter. James Spratlin's PAT kick gave the Devils a 7-0 advantage.
Wilkinson, led by their all-star quarterback, drove to the LC 21 on 9 plays before trying a pass that Jalen Franklin snagged. Franklin went straight down the field for 79 yards and the second Devil TD. Spratlin's kick put the Devils up 14-0 with 7:40 left in the opening period.
After exchanging punts several times, the Devils took over at their 39. A 10-yard pass from Gunby to Zireycus Letman gave the Devils a first down at midfield. Gunby, Jones, and McIntyre rushed for yardage, and Gunby connected with Mason Saggus for 6 yards, to ultimately put Lincoln at the 8. Jones scored from there with 4:10 left in the half. The PAT kick gave the Devils a 21-0 lead at the break.
The Warriors drove into Big Red territory to open the second half before Jet Marshall sacked the elusive Wilkinson quarterback for an 8-yard loss. Letman intercepted the Warriors pass attempt at the LC 36.
The two teams swapped punts, with the Devils taking over at their 40 with 5:17 left in the third. The Devils drove to the 5 before a fourth-down run came up short. The 14-play drive took nearly seven minutes off the clock.
Two plays later Jones intercepted at the Warrior 10 and dashed into the endzone for his third touchdown of the game. Spratlin's kick gave our Devils a commanding 28-0 lead with 9:43 left in the contest.
On their next offensive play, the Warriors fumbled a lateral with the Devils recovering at the Warrior 37. McIntire rushed for 9 yards on two plays before a penalty lost 6 yards. Sherrod Jones then took the handoff and ran 30 yards untouched into the endzone. Spratlin's kick with 7:49 left made the final margin 35-0.
Wilkinson, with passing and an interference penalty, was able to get a first down inside the Devil 10 with two minutes remaining. Letman intercepted at the 7 to end the final threat and preserve the 176th shutout of The Campbell Years.
The Devils finish the regular season at 10-0, the 15th time that has happened in the last 36 years. The undefeated region record is the 30th time that has happened in the last 38 years. During The Campbell Years, the Devils are 237-19-1 in region games and 345-52-3 in regular season games.
Commerce, the number four seed from 8-A, will visit Lincolnton in the first round of playoffs. The Tigers are 4-6 under new head coach Marvin Justice after long-time coach Steve Savage retired during the off-season. The only common opponent between Commerce and our Devils has been Washington-Wilkes, which saw W-W win 33-0 in mid-September. Commerce then won its next two games decisively, and beat Social Circle 45-21 last Friday.