Lincoln's playoff hopes vanish in 49-21 loss

October 26, 2003|GARY MOYERS

STANFORD - Lincoln County's hopes for a playoff berth came to a stunning end Friday with 4 minutes, 30 seconds to go in the game.

The Patriots trailed by just seven points and were set to get the ball back on a Pulaski Southwestern punt from near midfield, but a roughing-the-kicker penalty on fourth-and-nine gave the Warriors the football.

The penalty triggered a scoring explosion for Southwestern, which scored on the play after the penalty and then tacked on two more touchdowns in the final minutes to turn a tight game into a 49-21 victory.

"This is a tough, tough loss to take," said an emotional Lincoln coach Robbie Lucas after addressing his seniors following the game. "This was a very winnable game for us, and I'm really proud of the way we hung with them. But that fourth-down play just killed us. It was a great call on their part."


Southwestern got another chance after the roughing call, and on fourth-and-four from the Lincoln 41 against a Patriot offense stacked against a run up the middle, running back Lee Renfro bounced outside and raced 41 yards to put the game away.

Southwestern added a touchdown with 51 seconds remaining after an interception, and then scored one more time when Dustin Thrasher picked off a Chris Hart pass and returned it 47 yards for the game's final score.

But until the last four minutes, Lincoln put the pressure on behind Hart's passing and Logan Boyd's running.

Hart, who completed nine of 18 passes for 138 yards, hit Adam Buis on a 10-yard scoring pass for the game's opening touchdown after Phil Collins recovered a Southwestern fumble.

After a Southwestern score at the end of the period, Southwestern took the lead following an interception of a Hart pass.

"The turnovers were key," said Lucas, whose team lost three interceptions and three fumbles in the contest. "We did so many things right, but those mistakes killed us. You can't turn the ball over six times and win very often."

Southwestern threatened to put the game away when Brandon Frank scored from the one after the Warriors recovered a Lincoln fumble at the Patriot 14, but on the first play after the kickoff Nate Rice outfought a Southwestern defender for a Hart pass and sprinted 64 yards to cut the margin back to eight points.

The Patriots missed a golden opportunity late in the third period when Boyd broke free off tackle and ran 50 yards to the two, but he was hit from behind and his fumble was recovered by a Southwestern defender in the end zone for a touchback.

Southwestern again threatened to pull away early in the final quarter when Daulton Todd hit Thrasher for 42-yard scoring pass, but once again Lincoln answered with a quick score to pull within striking distance.

The Patriots drove from their own 25 to hit paydirt on a 4-yard run by Boyd, then Rice made a tremendous catch of a Hart pass while lying on his back for the two-point conversion. That cut the deficit to seven points and set the stage for the final four minutes of fireworks by Southwestern.

"The most positive thing for us was the way the kids fought back every time Southwestern scored," said Lucas, whose team fell to 2-7 on the season. "They didn't quit, and ever since the Rockcastle game we've improved. People ask what's wrong with Lincoln County football, and I can tell them right now not a thing. Lincoln County football is on the way back."

Lucas said his biggest regret is for his seniors.

"We wanted to get them in a playoff game in the worst way," he said. "Our seniors worked so hard this year, and it's a shame they don't get to go. They earned it."

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