SPARTA - Lincoln County fell to Hancock Central 36-21 here last Friday to all but end its playoff chances.
The Red Devils are now in 28th place (9.05 points) in the GHSA Class A Public Power Ratings. The top 24 after this week's games will make the playoffs. The teams tied for 24th have 9.64 points.
The Bulldogs dominated the game with 344 yards to 166 for the Devils. Those numbers don't include an 80-yard kickoff return for touchdown by Hancock Central.
The Devils got the pigskin first on a damp, chilly night. A penalty led to Lincoln County punting to the HC 42. Four plays later the Bulldog running back went left, was almost tackled, but then regained his balance and scored on a 47-yard run. The PAT run failed but the Bulldogs led 6-0 with 8:02 left in the opening quarter.
The Devils made one first down but again lined up to punt. The Bulldogs blocked the punt and took over on the LC 25. A lateral was good for 13 yards to the HC 7. Two runs netted four yards. The Bulldogs passed, but Monquavious Leverett tipped the ball to Kevon Franklin for an interception at the 7.
A personal foul against the home team put the ball at the 22. The Devil offense was unable to move the ball and punted to the LC 39. The Bulldogs kept the ball on the ground and scored on a three-yard run with 9:40 left in the second quarter. A run for two points pushed the lead to 14-0.
The Devils gained a few yards before a penalty gave them a first down at the LC 33. Errors pushed the Devils back to the 25 before another punt.
From the Bulldog 42, a series of penalties moved Hancock backward. A bad snap on the punt attempt lost 26 yards and gave the Devils a great scoring opportunity at the HC 16.
After an incomplete pass, Tevin Gartrell broke free from the defender that had his ankle and scored on a 16-yard run with 3:18 left before HC's Homecoming festivities. The PAT kick failed, but the lead was cut to 14-6.
The Devil Defense stopped Hancock on downs at midfield just before the half ended.
The Bulldogs scored on a 22-yard pass about two minutes into the second half. Their PAT pass failed, but Hancock led 20-6.
The Devils were unable to earn a first down and punted to the Bulldogs at the HC 28. The Bulldogs drove 12 plays before scoring on a five-yard run with 49 seconds left in the third quarter. The Devils trailed 26-6.
The Devil offense found life with Kolbi Ferguson running the ball after taking the direct snap from center. LC picked up two first downs before a personal foul stymied the drive. A fourth-down effort came up short at the HC 43. Four plays later the Bulldogs scored on a 37-yard run. The extra point run failed with Hancock leading 32-6 with 7:31 left in the game.
After exchanging possessions on a punt and downs, Leverett scored on a 29-yard run with 1:40 left in the game. Leverett passed to Ferguson for two points. Hancock led 32-14.
On the following kickoff, the Bulldog returner scampered 80 yards untouched. Hancock held a 38-14 advantage.
Leverett returned the next kickoff 45 yards to the HC 24. Continuing to run the wildcat play, Ferguson gained 14, five, four, and then the final one to paydirt. Lane Tuten booted the PAT to close the gap to 38-21 with 31 seconds left in the game. Ferguson finished the game with 94 yards on 18 carries.
Lincoln's onside kick attempt was not successful. Hancock took a knee to run out the clock.
This loss was the first ever to Hancock Central. This was the 22nd meeting of the two schools since their first game in 1978.
Before integration, the Red Devils played the Sparta Saints. Before last Friday, the last loss in Sparta was 19-0 in 1953.
The Devils fall to 3-6 on the season. This is the first regular season with six losses since the Devils went 3-7 in 1972.
The Devils have allowed 249 points this season. That's the most since 319 points were allowed in 1954's 0-10 season.
Greene County will host Tattnall Square Academy this Friday to decide the Region 7-A championship. The Devils defeated Tattnall in overtime earlier in the season for a lone bright spot in an otherwise disappointing year.
The Red Devils will host Twiggs County this Friday in what will probably be Lincoln County's last game of the year. The Cobras are winless and finished sixth in Division A. The pigskin will fly at 7:30. Go Red Devils!