Just as they did in the first half of their previous game against Marion County, the Patriots (2-5, 1-1 Class AAA, District 4) got into scoring territory inside the Taylor 20-yard line, but they turned the ball over.
"We had mistake after mistake, and two or three times it was deep in their territory and came up with no points," the Lincoln coach said. "They whipped us up front on both sides of the ball. They ran an option a couple times with the dive and got a big play and the quarterback (Benningfield) came through with play after play. They made all the right calls and deserved to win the game."
Former Lincoln player coaches Taylor
Taylor's starting quarterback was injured in the second game of the year and Cardinals' coach Rodney Turpin, a former player at Lincoln, decided to use Benningfield at quarterback against Lincoln.
"He was real aggressive and that has been what we have been needing," Turpin said. "Tonight was the first time he has played quarterback and he did a real nice job. I've never seen him run like that on the kickoff return, either. He was definitely a playmaker for us tonight."
Folger's 78-yard kickoff return on the opening play of the game placed the ball at the Taylor 5-yard line, but it took four plays before Braxton Miller, who led the Patriots with 81 yards rushing, scored on a 1-yard run. Jordan Kelsey added the extra point to give the Patriots a 7-0 lead just over a minute and a half into the contest.
"Our offense has been a problem for us all year long," French said. "We just can't seem to put points on the scoreboard. They blitzed some linebackers at times tonight and we had all kinds of problems with that. The plays we are calling are there, but we are not executing them. We had dropped passes. We have to find something that will score us some points."
Meanwhile, Taylor (1-6, 1-1) had turnover problems of its own early in the game. Following the touchdown, Taylor immediately fumbled the ball away to Lincoln, but the Patriots turned the ball over on downs when a wide-open Trent Calhoun slipped and fell on a pass attempt over the middle.
Taylor reached the Lincoln 18 after a 29-yard pass from Chase Porter to Kyle Cox, its only completion of the game, but Gatlin Greer recovered a fumble four plays later to stop the Cardinals' drive.
Score tied at halftime
Taylor finally rallied to knot the score at 7-7 before the half came to an end. Benningfield ran 48 yards to the Lincoln 2 after faking a dive play and scored from there two plays later.
"For the most part, we played defense halfway decent," French said. "If only it had not been for a couple plays."
Taylor opened the second half with gains of 14 and 16 yards from Phillip Baker plus 29 yards by Porter, forcing French to call a quick timeout. Following the timeout, the Patriot defense stopped the Cardinals at the 4-yard line.
However, the offense continued to sputter. Morgan Jones intercepted Jared Long's pass late in the third quarter and Long lost a fumble on a bad exchange from center early in the fourth frame.
Then came 16 seconds of play that Patriot fans and coaches would like to forget. Folger's touchdown gave the Patriots the lead with 4:38 to play, but Kelsey missed the try for the extra point. Benningfield then returned the kickoff for the touchdown to hand Lincoln a costly defeat.
The Patriots probably missed an opportunity to reach the Class AAA playoffs with the loss and Pulaski County, Pulaski Southwestern and Boyle County waiting in the wings.
'We blew any chance we had right out the door tonight," French said. "We can't do the things we did tonight and expect to make the playoffs. We just have to get better."