Last Friday's 21-19 come-from-behind win over Wilkinson County was worthy of a championship game, which was fitting given the pre-game recognition of the 1962 Class C State Champions.
Lincoln County overcame the Warriors' 13-0 second quarter lead with two third quarter TDs, then held on in the final period for the big win. The victory clinched the Region 7-A title for the Devils, assuring them of a good playoff seeding. The region championship is the 37th for the Devils, adding to their state record. Valdosta is second with 35.
The Red Devils now have a good chance at being the top seed in the 16-team Class A Public playoff bracket. The playoffs will start November 23, with a game at Buddy Bufford Field. Class A teams will not have games November 16.
To help achieve that top seeding, the Devils must win this Friday night in their home game against Hancock Central. The Bulldogs are much improved over last year, and are fighting for a spot in the Public Class A playoff field. Kickoff is 7:30 at Buddy Bufford Field.
Mike McIntire passed the 1,000-yard rushing milestone with 138 yards on 17 carries. For the first nine games, Mikey has carried 125 times for 1,079 yards with 15 touchdowns. That's an average of nearly 9 yards per carry.
Ben Turner completed 7 of 15 pass attempts for 74 yards and one TD, and rushed 13 times for 72 yards and a TD. Zireycus Letman led receivers with three catches for 51 yards and the TD.
After punts on both teams' opening possessions, Jalen Franklin snared an interception and returned the pigskin about 35 yards to the Wilkinson 22. The Devils gained a first down at the 12 before the Warriors stiffened. A 34-yard field goal attempt went wide left with 5:01 left in the opening frame.
After an exchange of more punts, the Devils found themselves with a first down at their own 1. Unable to make much ground, a short punt put the Warriors at the LC 29. A pass took the ball to the 3. Wilkinson took the lead on a 3-yard run with 9:08 left in the first half.
The Devils came back and drove to the WC 34 before the drive fizzled. A Devil punt put the Warriors where the Devils just were - at their own 1 yard line. Wilkinson earned two first downs before punting back to the Devils at the LC 38.
The Devil receiver fumbled a pass reception with the Warriors returned the ball about 30 yards for a touchdown. Their PAT attempt went wide left, but the visitors led 13-0 with about three minutes left before the bands hit the field.
Jamar Norman returned the following kickoff about 60 yards to the WC 33, almost breaking the return completely. Turner rambled for 14 yards. A pass interference penalty moved the ball to the 9. Turner rushed for 3 before finding Letman open just across the goalline for the 6-yard touchdown pass. The PAT kick cut Wilkinson's halftime lead to 6 points, 13-7.
Lincoln County took the second half kickoff and drove 77 yards on 13 plays with an effective mix of running and passing. The big play was Turner to Letman for 33 yards to the WC 2. Three plays later Turner ran in from the one for the score. James Spratlin put the Devils ahead 14-13 with his PAT kick with 7:13 left in the third.
Penalties and the tough Devil Defense pushed Wilkinson back 26 yards on its next possession. The Devils took over at the WC 43 after the punt. McIntire rushed for 9, Turner for 3, McIntire for 16, and Turner for 1 to the WC 14. Jamar Norman powered in from there with 3;34 left in the third. Spratlin made it 21-13.
Like the Devils, the Warriors had come from behind to win games in 2012. Good passing and Devil penalties helped the Warriors move to a first down at the LC 16. Dayshawn Taylor, having another outstanding defensive game, caught the Warriors for a 6-yard loss. Wilkinson then found an open receiver on the left side, reaching the 3. Two plays later, the Warriors scored on a 1-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter. They went for two to tie the game, but the Devils stopped the rushing attempt at the 2. With 11:58 left, the Devils led 21-19.
Penalties again bit the Devils on their next possession, losing 26 yards. A good run made up half the needed yards for the first down but ended with a fumble with the Warriors recovering at the LC 36. A 28-yard pass gave the Warriors 1st-&-goal at the LC 8. The Devil Defense stood fast, stopping the Warriors with 2 yards gained on 2 rushes and 1 pass.
Wilkinson setup to take the lead on a 24-yard field goal attempt, but the Devil Defense enticed an illegal motion penalty out of the Warrior line, moving the ball back 5 yards. Wilkinson setup for a 29-yard attempt, but the Devils again won the mind game and the Warriors jumped. The Warriors did manage to get a 34-yard attempt off, but the kick went way left. The Devils' 21-19 lead was preserved with 8:37 left in the game.
The Devils drove to midfield before their possession ended. After a punt, the Warriors started from their 29. Passes of 15 and 29 yards gave the visitors a first down at the LC 24 with 3 minutes left in the contest. An illegal man downfield penalty pushed the ball back five yards. An incomplete pass and a 6-yard pass setup 4th-&-9 at the LC 23. Under heavy pressure, the Warrior QB's pass went high over the endzone to end the scoring opportunity.
The Devils took over, but needed first downs to run down the clock and secure the win. McIntire rushed for 17 for one first down. Then, on 3rd-&-7 with 44 seconds left, McIntire powered through for 14 yards to seal the victory.