"If you get a kid one-on-one against (Childress), he is going to lose that battle. Actually, we had good coverage on him and the ball was thrown inside, but the kid made a nice adjustment to make the catch."
It wasn't the type of game that Rockcastle coach Tom Larkey envisioned. The Rockets plastered Lincoln 63-0 last season.
"We should have played better, but you have to give Lincoln a lot of credit," said Larkey, who earned his 200th career victory. "They came ready to play. We wanted to throw the ball some, but we didn't think we would have to throw the ball on the final play of the game to win."
Things looked bleak to begin the game for Lincoln (0-4) when Braxton Miller fumbled on the second play and Chris Croucher recovered for Rockcastle at the Lincoln 8-yard line. Two plays later, quarterback Matthew Burkhart threw a little flare pass to Derrick Hurst, who side stepped two defenders to score to give the Rockets a 6-0 lead a minute and a half into the game.
"We gave them their first touchdown, but played better defensively until the final two series," French said.
Patriots take the lead early in second half
Lincoln had only 12 yards total offense in the first half, but trailed just 6-0. The Patriots took over at their own 23 to begin the second half and promptly drove 77 yards in nine plays to take the lead.
Passes of 35 and 20 yards from Jared Long to Trent Calhoun put the ball at the 19 before Hagan Folger ran 14 yards. Two plays later Folger scored on a 1-yard run. Jordan Kelsey made the extra-point kick to give Lincoln a 7-6 lead with 5:15 to play in the third quarter.
"(Hagan) ran the ball hard and is the toughest runner we have," French said. "Trent is the type of kid that will make big plays for you. He has speed, good hands and athletic ability. He played well."
Rockcastle used over 7 1/2 minutes in its only sustained drive to regain the lead with just 3:14 to play when reserve quarterback Ricky Sandusky scored on a 1-yard quarterback sneak for a 12-7 lead.
The Rockets ran the ball on every play of the 16-play drive because Larkey decided it was time to play the smashmouth football that he is accustomed to.
"We had to change quarterbacks because (Burkhart) hurt his hand and couldn't throw the ball," the Rockcastle coach said. "We just decided to go to an old-fashioned I-formation with an overload and try to drive it down the field.
"Our offensive line is young, but they grew up tonight. They stepped up to help us drive the ball right down the field."
It looked like the Rockets would be able to run out the clock when Trent Jones picked off Long's pass two plays following the touchdown. However, Rockcastle returned the favor three plays later when Brian Glass recovered Sandusky's fumble at the Lincoln 38 with 1:16 to play.
Lincoln nearly scored on its first play when Long hit Calhoun, who had four catches for 151 yards, cutting across the field and he took the ball all the way to the Rockcastle one. Two plays later, Folger scored to give the Patriots a 13-12 lead with just 19 seconds to play.
That set the stage for a finish that resembled Kentucky's heartbreaking loss to LSU two years ago.
"To our credit, our kids battled back and you have to like your chances with :04 left to play," French added. "Rockcastle's been there before, though, and is used to making big plays."