"It's good to get the first win and hopefully it will continue from here," Lincoln senior quarterback Chris Hart said.
Hart, Lucas credit the past week of practice
Hart and Lucas both credited the past week of practice for changing the Patriots' play. Following last week's 64-0 loss to Rockcastle County, Lucas rededicated himself and his players to preparation for the Casey game.
"I knew for a fact it would be a different team based on how we prepared," Lucas said. "They prepared like we could win."
"Coach really got on us about practice," Hart said. "We came out all week and practiced real hard and I think we were ready for their game plan this week. We came out and executed tonight. That's what practice does for you."
Lincoln got its first win by making one big play and taking away several of Casey's attempts at the same. The Patriots' only touchdown came on an 80-yard fumble return by sophomore Hagan Folger in the third quarter.
The Rebels scored once as well, a 3-yard run by Rex Delk, but a first-quarter field goal by Justin Kolasa and several key defensive plays were the difference in the game for Lincoln.
A poor punt on Casey's second possession gave Lincoln possession at the Casey 23-yard line. Six plays later, Kolasa hit a 22-yard field goal with 45 seconds to play in the first quarter.
Casey's next two possessions ended in interceptions. The Rebels started at their own 41-yard-line after Kolasa's kick, and moved to withing three yards of the end zone. Casey quarterback Josh Swango lifted a pass to the end zone for Derek Vest that Lincoln's Nate Rice came down with instead.
"We just didn't make good reads on which receivers to throw to," Stephens said. "We threw several balls just up for grabs, and it's hard to do that. What that does is even if you throw incomplete, they get the ball on the three. Instead they get it on the 20 and then they're really not pinned deep. It's just little mental breakdowns that have really, really hurt us."
After Kolasa's next field goal attempt was blocked by Casey's Andrew Allen, Casey took over on its own 25 with 26 seconds to play in the first half. Two first downs later, Swango threw the ball deep, but it was picked by Hart at the 20 and returned to the 45 before the clock ran out.
"We just wanted to make sure they didn't get anything behind us," Hart said. "We would give up the underneath stuff and make sure they didn't get any big plays, and that's what we did tonight."
Delk's touchdown came on Casey's first possession of the second half to give Casey a 7-3 lead, but it was the Rebels' second possession that would change the complexion of the game.
Swango was sacked by Lincoln senior Tyson Stewart, and as he was flung to the ground, he fumbled the ball. Folger scooped it up at the 20 and ran untouched with a cascade of blockers to the end zone for a 10-7 lead with 1:33 to play in the third quarter.
Delk reinjures shoulder
Casey threw two more interceptions, both to Hart, on its final two possessions, and senior running back/safety Delk left the field with about five minutes to play after reinjuring his shoulder. The final gasp came on a third-and-17 play from the Casey 34 in which Swango lofted a pass deep that Hart grabbed and returned to midfield to give Lincoln its first victory.
Lucas and Hart said that a lot of people underestimated Lincoln after the Patriots struggled against better teams in their first four games.
"There are a lot of people that don't think we should be playing those teams," Lucas said. "I think those teams prepared us for this game right here. We were able to make adjustments, work on some different looks, and it's a credit to the kids that it worked."
Hart finished 5-of-9 passing for 46 yards and no interceptions, while Logan Boyd had 46 yards rushing on 13 carries for Lincoln. Adam Buis was Hart's favorite target, catching two passes for 26 yards.
Swango was 4-for-13 for 43 yards and four interceptions and also lost one fumble. Delk finished with 83 yards on 18 carries and Brandon Raney had three catches for 40 yards.