Lincoln County's Red Devils almost pulled off a miracle comeback in the final minutes of last Friday's Class A Public semifinal game, but lost 10-7 to Dooly County.
With neither team managing an offensive touchdown, most points came on special team defensive plays. The Red Devils outgained the Bobcats 197 to 183 yards and 12 to 7 in first downs. Both punters were busy, with seven kicks each.
The first quarter was back-and-forth with neither team able to get much of an advantage. The Devils did march to the Dooly 33 before the drive fizzled. One exchange later, the Bobcats muffed a punt with the Devils recovering at the DC 29. Mike McIntire, who rushed for 43 yards on 15 carries in the game, gained 6, then 3, then another 6 on fourth down for a first down on the DC 14. Another run gained 5 but a fumble turned the pigskin over to the Bobcats at the 9 with 30 seconds left in the opening period.
After two more punts, the Bobcats drove from their 19 to the LC 15. The big play was a 38-yard run to the 20. Dooly booted a 31-yard field goal with 3:43 left in the half to take a 3-0 lead.
With runs by McIntire and passing from Ben Turner to Zireycus Letman and Jalen Franklin, the Devils went 12 plays from their 37 to the DC 15. Facing a 4th-&-2, the Devils ran the clock down to two seconds and attempted a 32-yard field goal. The Bobcats blocked the effort and returned the ball 75 yards for a touchdown as time expired. The PAT kick gave the Bobcats a 10-0 halftime lead.
For the game, Turner completed 13 of 34 pass attempts for 150 yards. Franklin caught 5 for 77 yards.
Dooly County took the opening kickoff of the second half and ran over five minutes off the clock before the Devil Defense stopped the drive at the LC 25.
A series of three-and-outs ran off the next 12 minutes of clock time, leaving the Devils back at their 25. Franklin made a great catch of a Turner pass for 30 yards to the Dooly 45. Three plays later Turner found Letman for 10 yards to keep the drive alive. Two plays later Blake Murray grabbed a 29-yard pass from Turner for a first down at the 6. Franklin almost caught a pass in the endzone for a touchdown. Letman rushed for 1 to the 5.
The third down pass fell incomplete, but a defensive pass interference penalty gave the Devils new life at the 2. Two pass attempts fell incomplete, and a run by McIntire gained one. The fourth down pass was incomplete, turning the ball over to the Bobcats with only 3:15 left in the contest.
The Devil Defense played tough, allowing a net four yards and forcing a punt. Dooly fumbled the punt snap with Jalen Wade coming out of the endzone pileup with the pigskin for the touchdown. James Spratlin's PAT cut the Bobcat lead to 3 points, 10-7, with 2:54 left.
An onside kickoff attempt failed with the Bobcats recovering at midfield. With Lincoln County faithful on their feet and urging on their Devils, the Devil Defense again prevented a first down, giving the Devils one last chance at their 36 with 39 seconds left.
Unfortunately the Devils were unable to move the ball, turning it back over on downs with 5 seconds left to seal the Bobcat win.
As they have done on several occasions this season when trailing on the scoreboard, the Devils never gave up. Despite many injuries and inexperienced players, their final 11-2 mark, region championship, top playoff seed, and semifinal visit are accomplishments that any school would cherish.
For the season, McIntire rushed 1,358 yards on 185 carries with 18 touchdowns. He missed some playing time late in the season due to a shoulder injury. Ben Turner completed 115 of 219 pass attempts for 1,498 yards and 13 touchdowns. Zireycus Letman was the leading receiver with 49 catches for 631 yards and 9 touchdowns. All three return in 2013 for their senior seasons, as do many linemen and the kickers.
The 10 seniors on the 2012 team should be proud of the 44-8-0 record that the Red Devils accomplished during their four high school years. This includes three region championships and 8 playoff wins.
Dooly County will play ECI at 11:30 Saturday in the Class A Public finals. ECI beat Wilcox County 38-27 in the other semi. In the Class A Private title game Friday at 2:30, ELCA will host Prince Avenue Christian. All seven championship games will be broadcast live on GPB.