Lincoln County shutout the defending Class A champion Clinch County Panthers here last Friday to earn the Red Devils' tenth consecutive trip to the quarterfinals. The 27-0 win gives Lincoln County a 5-4-0 lead in the all-time series with the south Georgia powerhouse, and is the first shutout of the Panthers in the playoffs since 1993. The 27-point margin is the largest in the series, and is the most points scored by Lincoln County in the nine meetings.
Savannah Christian won the coin-toss Saturday morning to determine the location of the quarterfinal meeting between the two number-one seeds. The Raiders ended the Devils' season the last two years in the quarterfinals, 17-14 last year and 7-0 in 2009. By most accounts, the Raiders are stronger this year than the past two seasons, and have not been seriously challenged. Their closest game was in mid-September, a 24-point win over Class AAAA Effingham County. Since then, they have claimed four shutouts in eight games, allowing 29 points in those other four games while scoring nearly 42 points a game. Last Friday, the top-ranked Raiders whipped Bowdon 38-7.
Friday's game will be played in Garden City Stadium (150 Wheathill Road) near Savannah. The Raiders do not have a stadium on school grounds, and use the field that's on the Groves High campus. This will be Lincoln County's first game in Chatham County; previous games with schools from Savannah (Calvary, Savannah Country Day, and Savannah Christian) have been played in Lincolnton.
Clinch County was unable to score despite having two offensive players already committed to SEC schools. Seven times the Panthers took an offensive snap within the LC 5, and each time the Devil defense stopped the scoring effort.
After exchanging punts on their first possessions, the Devils started from their 48. Denzel Gunby passed 11 yards to Blake Murray, then Craig Jones ran for 11. Gunby scrambled for 8. Jones then rushed for 16, with second effort accounting for half of that. One play later Jones scored up the middle from the 7. The PAT kick was wide left, but the Devils were leading 6-0 with 4:25 left in the first quarter.
Aided by penalties on the Devils, the Panthers drove to a first down at the LC 12. Two runs gained nine yards before the Devil Defense threw the Panthers back on the next two plays to end the scoring threat.
The Devils punted on their next possession, and Clinch attempted a punt of its own but the Devils' block effort was successful, turning the ball over to the offense at the 11. Jones went untouched up the middle from there with 6:38 left in the second period. The try-for-two pass attempt failed, leaving the Devils up 12-0.
The Panthers returned the following kickoff to the LC 42. They picked up one first down but failed on a fourth-down pass, turning the ball over on downs at the LC 32.
Mason Saggus flashed across the defensive secondary, caught Gunby's pass mid-stride, and never looked back on a 68-yard touchdown play. Jet Marshall caught the 2-point pass from Gunby to put the Devils up 20-0 with 3:13 left in the half.
A 44-yard pass play put the Raiders at the LC 7. The Devils held on fourth down as the half ended to preserve the 20-point advantage at the break.
The experienced Clinch County team started the third quarter by driving for a first down at the LC 9. Once again the Devil Defense withstood the strong challenge, stuffing a fourth-down run at the half-yard line.
A swapping of punts left the Devils with the pigskin at their 25. Jones went down the right side for 41 yards to the Clinch 34. Mike McIntire rushed for four before breaking through for 30 yards and a touchdown with 10:31 left in the game.
An interception by Zireycus Letman end the Panthers next drive at midfield. A big stop on fourth down ended their last effort with 4:43 left. The Devils substitutes ran the clock out from there, threatening another score as the game ended.
The winner of the game in Savannah will play the winner of Bremen at Prince Avenue Christian in Bogart. Region 8-A champ PAC, in only its sixth year of football, whipped traditional power Charlton County 21-3. Bremen knocked off previously-unbeaten Marion County 10-7.
Aquinas shocked Wilcox County 32-14 and will host Landmark Christian in the quarterfinals. That winner will play the winner of ELCA vs. Seminole County. Wilkinson County lost to Seminole County to end its season.
Abbeville defeated Chesterfield 17-13 and will play Hemingway for the South Carolina Class A Division 1 title November 25. Abbeville, the defending state champ, is 12-1 with the sole loss being to Lincoln County.