When all was said and done in Lincolnton last Friday night, the two best small school football programs in Georgia and South Carolina had battled to a 7-7 tie. But other than the score, the game was a huge win for the Red Devils. The hometown boys were reportedly a 3-touchdown underdog to the defending SC Class AA champions. Abbeville, ranked #1 and riding a 10-game winning streak coming into the game, had run over their three opponents in 2016.
The Devils would lose their top two running backs in the first half. Miscues on offense would push the Devils back to their 3 at one point. But Lincoln County never gave up despite facing one of the best teams and programs in South Carolina. Even after a late interception almost gave the Panthers the lead, the Devils jumped right back to stop the Panther offense and block a field goal in the final minutes and preserve the tie. These Devils don't stop.
The Panthers took the opening kickoff and rushed for one first down before the Devil Defense pushed the visitors backwards.
The Devils started from their 25 with QB Javon Reid and Quay Hartfield each rushing for four yards. Hartfield then ran for 19 yards on a strong run that ended with his helmet coming off. Two plays later, on 3rd-and-11 from the Abbeville 49, Reid scrambled all over the gridiron before miraculously tossing, as he was being tackled, to Midarious Roberts for 19 yards. Hartfield rushed for six, followed by a four-yard run by Jamal Norman for another first down at the 21.
Norman rushed twice more for a first at the 11. Norman gained two and Reid six before Hartfield was stopped for no gain at the three. Hartfield was injured and would not return in the game.
The Devils faced 4th-and-2 at the Panther 3, and first looked to try for a field goal. LC called a timeout to talk it over. At this point, in their fourth game of 2016, Abbeville had yet to allow an offensive touchdown.
Coach Kevin Banks changed his mind, and the Devils lined up their offense. Reid went up the middle, scoring with 1:59 left in the opening quarter. William LeRoy booted the PAT for a 7-0 Lincoln County lead.
Abbeville failed to make a first down on its next possession, with the Devils starting at their 37. Jamal Norman broke loose for 18 yards, but was injured on the tackle and would not return.
Reid slashed against the grain for 11 yards, followed by 13 yards by Ty Elam to the 21. The Panther defense strengthened and a 37-yard field goal attempt by the Devils fell short.
Abbeville took over at their 20, and completed a lateral that was good for nearly 60 yards to the LC 25. Looking back upfield, a yellow flag for an illegal block was laying at the Panther 35. The officials discussed the play for several minutes before waiving off the flag.
The Panthers ran eight plays inside the LC 25 but failed to score as the Devil Defense was playing a great game against the run and the pass.
The Devils managed one first down on their next possession before punting to Abbeville at their 32.
Abbeville drove to the LC 23 before Xavier Gartrell took away a pass from a Panther in the endzone for an interception to end the first half. The Devils led the #1 Panthers 7-0.
Lincoln County failed to make a first down on their first possession of the second half. Abbeville gained three first downs before a penalty and tenacious LC defense stopped the drive at the 50.
After a punt, the Devils managed one first down due to four penalties, and punted to the Panther 45. Abbeville, with good runs and a 21-yard pass, drove to the LC 2. The quarterback needed two tries to go the final 2 yards, scoring from the one with 25 seconds left in the third. The PAT kick tied the game.
The following kickoff barely went into the endzone, giving the Devils the pigskin at their 20. A snap problem led to the Devils recovering their own fumble at the three. Facing 3rd-and-21 at his nine, Reid found Gartrell open behind the defense for 47 yards to the A 44. The drive fizzled at the A 39. Trey Martin punted and the Devil coverage team downed the ball at the Abbeville two.
The Devil Defense forced a Panther punt from their 22 at midway of the fourth quarter.
Elam returned the punt 19 yards to the A 36. The Devils ran over three minutes off the clock, but the drive stopped at the 30. Martin and the punt team again did a perfect job, giving Abbeville the ball at its 4 with 2:18 left.
The Panthers came up a yard short of a first down, punting from their 13 with just under a minute left.
The Devils started from the A 43, but wanted the win. Reid's second pass attempt was intercepted and the return first looked to be good for 65 yards and a winning touchdown for the Panthers.
But then an official marked the defensive back out of bounds at the LC 27. Abbeville had another chance with 26 seconds left.
One pass was good for 12 to the LC 15 before the next pass fell incomplete. Abbeville's field goal attempt was blocked by the Devils, and the game ended in a 7-7 tie.
Since the two teams are not in the same Georgia region, overtime was not automatic. Overtime was not played to break the tie since there was no agreement to do so.
The Red Devils have a week off to heal their injuries and work on some areas of concern. They travel to Macon for their first visit to Stratford Academy on September 23.