Jamal Norman scored on a 3-yard run and Ryan O'Neill booted the PAT with just over two minutes left to give the Lincoln County Red Devils a 7-6 come-from-behind win over Region 7-A Sub B foe Hancock Central.
The Red Devil defense allowed 2 long drives, but secured it's third consecutive shutout as the Bulldogs scored on a long interception return and not against the defense.
Lincoln County knew from the opening drive that their Bulldog opponents had made some changes in their gameplan from recent games. Hancock took the opening kickoff and marched 65 yards before a pass attempt fell incomplete on 4th-and-5 at the LC 27. That 16-play possession took over nine-and-a-half minutes off the clock.
Javon Reid connected with Midarious Roberts for 48 yards on the Devils' first snap. Roberts made a great catch with a Bulldog on his back, giving the Devils a first down at the Hanock 32. Jayden Robinson rushed for six but the drive fizzled and the Devils punted.
The Bulldogs started from their 20 and picked up two first downs before the Devils stopped the drive at the Hancock 41. The two teams exchanged punts with the Devils coming out 20 yards better, starting from their 44. A 15-yard pass over the middle from Reid to Roberts picked up 15 to the Hancock 25. Three plays later the Bulldogs intercepted a pass at their 30 and returned it up the left sideline for 70 yards and a 6-0 lead with 55 seconds left in the half. The PAT pass attempt failed.
Trailing at the break 6-0, the Devils came out in the third with Norman breaking a 34-yard run around the right side for a first down at the Bulldog 36. Xavier Gartrell snagged an 18-yard pass from Reid for a first down at the 20. The Devils went backward, and a 40-yard field goal attempt came up short.
Jason Gartrell intercepted a Bulldog pass to end the home team's next possession at the Bulldog 28. The Devils were unable to gain a first down, and turned the pigskin over to Hancock on downs at the HC 23. A nine-yard pass gained a Bulldog first down to the HC 36.
Marquis Leverett grabbed an interception and returned the ball about 10 yards to the HC 30. Quay Hartfield rushed for 5, followed by four-yard and eight-yard runs by Norman for a first down at the 20. Hartfield ran for one more but the next play lost two yards. Reid then found Hartfield open on a screen just left of center for a 13-yard gain and 1st-and-goal at the 8.
Norman rushed for five before scoring from the three with 11:26 left in the game to tie the score. O'Neill booted the PAT for a 7-6 lead with plenty of time for the Bulldogs to come back.
Good Devil kickoff coverage pinned the Bulldogs at their 13. A six-yard pass on 3rd-and-4 gained a first down at the HC 25. Three plays later the Bulldog's main running back broke a 27-yard run before being caught by the Devil safeties at the LC 39. Eight minutes were left in the game.
Two minutes later the Bulldogs faced 4th-and-7 at the LC 36. An 11-yard pass kept the drive alive. Two short runs and a five-yard penalty on the Devils setup up 3rd-and-1 at the LC 16 with less than 3:30 remaining. The Devil Defense caught the Bulldog back for a two-yard loss. The Hancock quarterback was caught moving early for a five-yard loss for 4th-and-8 at the 23 with 2:30 left. The Bulldogs fourth down pass fell incomplete to end the 15-play drive with 2:17 left.
Starting from the 23, the Devils needed at least one first down to run out the clock. Hartfield had a strong effort for 12 yards. One play later Robinson rushed for 11 for another first down. Reid took a knee on the next play to finish out the close and secure the 7-6 victory.
Norman finished the game with 89 yards on 14 carries. Reid completed four of eight pass attempts for 94 yards. Roberts caught two passes for 63 yards.
Lincoln County ran 41 plays for 221 yards, compared to 49 plays for 237 yards for the Bulldogs. The difference came down to interceptions: the one Hancock returned for a TD, and two by LC, including the last one that setup the winning score.
The game last Friday in Sparta was Hancock Central's Homecoming event. Unfortunately the school did not handle the gate well, causing many Lincoln County fans to not reach the stands until late in the first quarter.
The Red Devils have never lost to Hancock Central, so this game goes in the records book as the closest game in the long series.
Lincoln County, now 7-0, will host GMC for Homecoming this Friday night. Kickoff is set for 7:30.