Lincoln County ended Aquinas's four-year winning streak over the Devils with a hard-fought 12-6 win in Lincolnton last Friday night. The Irish came into the game ranked in the Top 10 and as an 8-point favorite.
The victory puts the Devils in a tie with Aquinas and Washington-Wilkes at 4-1 for the top of the Region 7-A Division B standings. Seedings for the play-in games are determined by Power Ratings. Aquinas gets the top seed and will play at Stratford Academy to determine the Region 7-A champion. W-W is second and will play at Tattnall Square.
The Devils will travel to Macon to play First Presbyterian Day school, the second seed in Division A. The Vikings are 7-2 with a victory over Tattnall and losses to Stratford (28-7) and Brookstone. Kickoff will be at 7:30. The Devils last played at FPD in 2015, and last met the Vikings in last year's cross-over game in Lincolnton.
With their fourth consecutive win, the Devils improved to 5-4. This is the forty-fifth straight year that Lincoln County has won at least five games in a season. Valdosta, the most winningest program in the history of high school football, cannot make that claim.
The victory significantly improves the Devils' chances of making the playoffs. Lincoln County improved to 16th in the Class A Public Power Ratings. The teams in 9 to 16 host a first round game against the teams in 17 to 24. Final Power Ratings will be calculated after this week's games.
Jamal Norman rushed 23 times for 124 yards and a touchdown to lead the Devils offensively. Javon Reid ran 14 times for 85 yards. Gerard Hearst carried 13 times for 70 yards. William LeRoy had one of his best nights punting, with four for a 41-yard average.
Norman started the Devils off well, gaining 17 yards up the middle for a first down on the first play from scrimmage. Two more runs by the senior picked up 11 for a first down near midfield. The drive fizzled with LeRoy pinning the Irish inside the 10 with his punt.
Aquinas's super QB John Paul ran for 54 yards before the Devils caught him from behind at the LC 43. Reid broke up a flea flicker pass on third down, and the Devil Defense stopped Aquinas inches shy of a first down at the LC 34.
The Devils started driving again, with Norman earning two first downs with 28 yards on three plays. Hearst rushed for 14 before the pigskin popped loose at the Irish 22. Aquinas then mixed rushing and passing over 14 plays and seven minutes to move to the LC 25. Reid intercepted a third-down pass at the goalline to end the threat.
The Devils couldn't get anything going and punted to the Irish near midfield. They moved to the LC 27 before a fourth-down pass fell incomplete.
Lincoln County then put together a long drive, going 14 plays to the Aquinas 23 before it also ended on a fourth-down incompletion with 29 seconds left in the half. The game was scoreless at halftime.
The Irish QB almost fell on Aquinas's second play of the third quarter, but that stutter step threw off the Devil Defense and allowed an Irish receiver to get behind the safeties for a 55-yard gain to the LC 8. Three plays lost two yards, and the visitors booted a 27-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead with 9:18 left in the third.
Reid rushed for 27 as the Devils went to work. Ten more by the quarterback followed by nine by Hearst put the Devils at the Irish 32. Norman ran for 17 more, with a facemask penalty giving the Devils a first down at the Aquinas five. Norman ran for two, and then the final three up the middle for a Red Devil lead. The PAT kick hit the left upright and bounced back, but the Devils led 6-3 with 5:37 left in the third.
Three incomplete passes resulted in an Irish punt to the LC 10. The Devils gained one first down before punting back to the Irish at their 35.
Reid recovered an Aquinas fumble at the Irish 35. The Devils came up two yards short of a first down at the 27. The Devil Defense was again up to the task and forced another Aquinas punt.
The Devils earned one first down but punted from their 38. LeRoy's punt rolled to the Irish 22. Aquinas ran for one first down to the Irish 34. Reggie Reid stepped in front of the Irish receiver, made the interception, and returned the ball 42 yards to the Aquinas 20.
Norman ran for four and Hearst rushed for 10 for a first down at the six. Norman gained two and Hearst then scored on a four-yard scamper. The PAT run failed, but the Devils led by two scores, 12-3, with 4:33 left in the game.
But the game wasn't over, and Aquinas had beaten the Devils four straight years. Their offense is potent and there was still time. A 14-yard QB run gained a first down at the LC 43 with 3:51 left. Another run by the quarterback gained seven on 4th-&-6 at the LC 32 with three minutes left. A nine-yard pass led to a first down at the 22. A roughing-the-passer call meant a first down at the LC 11. But the Devil Defense held firm on three incomplete passes and the Irish booted a 28-yard field goal with 1:35 left to cut the lead to six points.
The Devils fell on the onside kick attempt at the LC 47. Norman rushed for three and Reid four to setup 3rd-&-3 with 1:15 left. Norman broke through the line and fell forward for five yards and the first down, cementing the victory with 1:10 left. Two knees and the Devils won 12-6.
The two teams combined for 119 offensive plays. Most Red Devil games don't top 100 combined. The Red Devils rushed 50 times for 279 yards and two touchdowns. The Irish completed 19 of 36 pass attempts for 174 yards and two interceptions. They rushed 23 times for 111 yards. Both teams lost one fumble.