When Lincoln County and Commerce face off against each other, the games are always entertaining, usually to the last minute.
Friday's second round playoff matchup between the Tigers and the Devils in Lincolnton was certainly no different. Commerce's star running back James Rucker got loose down the right side in the first quarter to give the Tigers the lead with just over two minutes gone. After exchanging punts, Lincoln County came back to cut the lead to one when Gavin Williams went down the left side untouched for 25 yards and the touchdown. The half ended with the Tigers leading by 1, 7-6.
Our Devils came out for the second half ready to play Lincoln County football. Cord Coppin found Steven Brown for 9 yards, and Williams rushed for 24. The drive stalled, with the Devils facing 4th-&-goal at the 17. Coppin found Brandon Barden in the right corner of the endzone, who reached up to snag the ball away from the Tiger defender. Coppin & Barden combined on the PAT attempt to put our Devils ahead 14-7.
The Devil Defense stopped the Tigers cold and forced a punt. LCHS drove from its 43 to the Tiger 8. An interference penalty gave the Devils 1st-&-goal from the 4. Three plays gained 3 yards against the tough Tiger defense, before Coppin scored on a quarterback sneak on the second play of the fourth quarter.
The Tigers were stymied again on their next drive, facing 4th-&-3 at the LC 49. On the next play, Lincoln seemingly had the Tiger QB in the grasp at the line, but he tossed the ball to Rucker who scampered 49 yards for the TD with 9:34 left. The PAT kick cut the lead to 21-14.
These Devils come right back after they give up points. Behind the running of Coppin and Williams, LC moved 64 yards in 5 plays. Williams scored from the 16 with 6:10 left. Chase McGill's PAT kick gave the Devils a 28-14 lead. Commerce also drove right back, but fumbled at the Lincoln 31 with the Devils recovering with three minutes remaining. Barden rambled for 32 yards, and Williams went the last 37 untouched for the final TD of the night with 2:16 remaining. McGill booted the PAT for a 35-14 lead.
To preserve the win, Lincoln County successfully kicked onsides and recovered the kick at the Tiger 33. Three plays by the Lincoln substitutes moved the ball to the 21 before the Devil QB took a knee and the clock expired.
Gavin finished the night with 157 yards on 17 carries and three touchdowns.
Friday night's clash in Lincolnton featured two of the all-time top 10 schools in Georgia. In all-time winning percentage, Lincoln is 3rd and Commerce 10th. Commerce is currently 15th in Georgia all-time in wins with a 493-234-19 record. Our Devils are 612-221-23 and fourth overall. Since 2000, Lincoln County is 49-17, one win better than Commerce's record of 48-17 during that same period.
The Devils are approaching their 100th playoff win; they are currently 99-23, including 64-11 at home during The Campbell Years. Only fabled Valdosta has more GHSA playoff wins with 109.