"Of course, turnovers hurt us in the first half, but we kept fighting," he said. "I'm proud of the kids. They don't give up."
Lincoln's growing list of injured included starting quarterback Trey Edwards, who watched Friday's game from the sidelines with a dislocated shoulder and kicker Michael Huffman, who suffered a head injury in a soccer game.
Lincoln's quarterback status would not get any better. Backup quarterback Austin Hinds left the game after he took a blow to the right side of his back early in the second quarter on a tackle by Rockcastle linebacker Dalton Dillingham.
"He got hit in the ribs and the back and he said he'd lost some feeling in his legs so they decided to take him to the hospital," said Settles.
With Edwards and Hinds both out, Settles called on third-string quarterback Drew Jackson, a senior, to act as field captain. With the exception of a few snaps taken last week against Southwestern after Edwards injured his shoulder, Jackson has spent the season watching the Patriots rather than playing for them.
"He's actually playing with a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). He hurt his knee in our first preseason scrimmage against Anderson County," said Settles. "We're kind of depleted at quarterback so we're just playing guys that we feel that can fit in there."
"He was really nervous when he first went in," Settles said of Jackson. "But he settled down there and responded well in the second half and played better."
Rockcastle took advantage of those early jitters. Jared Smith recovered a fumbled handoff to set up a 12-yard touchdown by Cody Mize in the third and Matt Bullens followed with an interception off Jackson which he returned 34 yards to the end zone to give the Rockets a 35-0 lead.
Junior back Julian Calhoun provided two "highlight" moments for Lincoln, as he put the Patriots on the scoreboard in the second half.
On Rockcastle's first possession of the second half, Calhoun intercepted a Dustin Bishop pass and returned it 34 yards for a score. Calhoun came up big again late in the fourth quarter, making short work of a Lincoln possession with a 77-yard scoring run.
"Julian Calhoun is capable of being a great player and making plays like that," said Settles. "We've just got to make sure he continues to get the ball in his hands and play with confidence."
Calhoun carried the ball just four times Friday, finishing with 77 yards total. As a team, the Patriots finished with just 135 rushing yards, 180 total.
Rockcastle, which had 248 total yards, 211 rushing, made its biggest gains in the first half. The Patriot defense stepped up to shut down the Rockets in the second half, giving up just 77 yards.
An impact player on the Lincoln defense was senior Skyler Gilbert, who was involved in 20 tackles.
"Skyler Gilbert's put together two very good games back-to-back," said Settles of the Pat linebacker. "He was awesome. I mean, he was all over the field making plays. He doesn't give up. He just plays hard."
But the effectiveness of the Lincoln defense really wasn't a key in most of Rockcastle's scoring, with the points coming off Pat miscues.
Smith scored the Rock's first touchdown on a 6-yard run after Hinds fumbled early in the first quarter and a short Lincoln punt set up the next TD, giving the Rockets possession on the Lincoln 16. Casey Hayes, who rushed 26 times for 142 yards, capped off the short drive with a 1-yard TD to make it 14-0.
Hayes added a 14-yard scoring run midway of the second to widen the margin to 21-0. Then, the Rockets got another short field after Jackson's fumbled exchange and Mize capped off the 39-yard drive with his 12-yard score.
"We don't have a lot of team chemistry right now because we're rotating so many guys around in the lineup because of the injuries and it hurt us at times tonight," he said. "And Rockcastle County is a good team. They're well-coached and, unfortunately, we didn't play well in the first half and they took advantage."
The second half, Lincoln did what Settles expected.
"We didn't come out and play a good first half, but the second half we decided to play with a lot of pride and toughness. And it showed," he said. "We won the second half."
Friday's loss drops Lincoln to 0-5. Settles and the Patriots will be looking to stop the skid as they host South Laurel Friday.
Despite a winless record, Settles says he has no concerns about the Patriots losing their team spirit.
"We won't let them," he said. "As a staff, we won't let those kids quit. We challenge them every opportunity we get. Sometimes in life you get beat down and you've got to learn how to respond and they responded positive tonight."