"The play in the end zone settled our nerves more than anything else," Garrard coach Steve Stonebraker said. "We played well from that point until the last five minutes of the game, and then we didn't close the game like we should have."
For Lincoln coach Larry French, it was another bitter pill to swallow.
"We're just not disciplined, and until we get disciplined, we won't win any football games," French said. "I can't fault our effort. It was great tonight. We made major mistakes and just got beat, though. At times we would look OK, then we would give up a big play again."
Lincoln stopped the Lions on their first series and got a 31-yard Bradley Burton field goal to lead 3-0 late in the first quarter before Garrard took control. The Lions went 62 yards in nine plays to score to begin the second period on Spencer Crutchfield's 13-yard run. Dan Leavell had an 11-yard catch, Crutchfield ran for 11 yards and Zach Doan, who rushed for 61 yards on 18 carries, ran for 20 more yards to set up the touchdown.
"Zach ran the ball hard all night and it was nice to have a healthy Spencer Crutchfield back," Stonebraker said.
"(Garrard) went to an I-formation in the second quarter and ran the ball right down our throats," French said. "We just didn't make tackles all night. We got caught inside on the bootleg several times and we have to learn to take care of our responsibilities. I'm just disappointed in the way we performed. Our effort was there, but we continue to make crazy mistakes."
Garrard mishandled a snap on a 36-yard field goal attempt and lost the ball at the Lincoln 8-yard line. The Lions got the ball back on the next play, though, when Jared Prewitt recovered a fumble at the 9. After a five-yard penalty, Doan scored on the next play to give the Lions a 14-3 advantage.
Lincoln turned the ball over once more before halftime when Crutchfield intercepted a pass at the Garrard 24. The Patriots ran just 10 plays in the second period and had possession for just under four minutes.
Daniel Barker's 20-yard touchdown reception gave the Lions what seemed to be a comfortable 20-3 lead with 7:59 to play in the game, but Lincoln's offense came alive late to make it a game.
First, Long, who completed 11 of 25 passes for 217 yards, threw a short swing pass to Trent Calhoun. He cut across the field while avoiding tacklers for a 52-yard touchdown. Later, Long's 32-yard pass to Merriman placed the ball on the 1, and Andrew Smith scored from there on his only carry to pull the Patriots to within five at 20-15.
"Jared did a nice job for a kid that hasn't played much," French said. "He has a tremendous arm, is seeing the field better and was a bright spot for us tonight. I'm pleased with his progress."