"It's such a disappointment," Lincoln coach Mike Settles said. "You can't play for the kids; they've got to learn on their own. Unfortunately, Washington County wanted it more than Lincoln County did, and it showed in the end."
While Lincoln (1-3) appeared to run out of gas after taking a 24-7 lead, Washington (1-3) scored touchdowns in rapid succession in the fourth quarter. They scored three of them in 4:02 in the fourth quarter to turn a nine-point deficit into a 10-point lead over a Lincoln team that has given up 145 points in four games.
"I've never experienced what happened tonight before in 17 years of coaching," Settles said. "Our kids have got to learn how to finish teams off."
Settles said the loss leaves Lincoln at a crossroads with its Class AAAAA district opener approaching this week.
"Our kids have got to find themselves right now. We've got some issues we've got to fix," he said, adding that he didn't want to say what those issues are.
Washington, which rallied from a 21-13 deficit last year to beat Lincoln 35-30, scored on four of its five offensive possessions in the second half, and the Commanders also got one touchdown on defense and another on special teams and recovered consecutive onside kicks.
"We're young, and we're up and down, and we got a little momentum and never let go of that momentum," Washington coach Mark Perry said.
Meanwhile, Lincoln never threatened to score again after Matt Carrier's second rushing touchdown gave the Patriots a 24-7 lead with 5:46 left in the third quarter.
"I'm disappointed that our kids got fatigued, and I thought that was a big difference in the outcome." Settles said. "I take so much pride in my teams being in great shape, and we didn't show that tonight, and that's disappointing."
Quan Turner started the second-half scoring for Washington with a 49-yard touchdown run just two plays after Carrier's score.
The Commanders then drove 50 yards in nine plays for the second of Tyree Railey's three rushing touchdowns, which came on the first play of the fourth quarter and pulled them within 24-19.
A 75-yard punt return by Turner just 2 1/2 minutes later gave Washington a 27-24 lead, and it got the ball right back when Kyle Curtsinger recovered an onside kick and scored in three plays on a screen pass by Micheal Gash to go up 34-24 with 7:58 remaining.
Kicker Seth Mattingly recovered the second onside kick, but Lincoln's made its only stop of the second half. Two plays later, however, Ben Simms returned an interception 18 yards to the end zone.
Washington converted a fumble by Carrier on the Patriots' next play into one more score with 2:10 to play, giving the Commanders six touchdowns in a span of 15:02.
Lincoln led 17-7 at halftime after rushing touchdowns by Carrier and Austin Hinds and a field goal by Carl-Lewis Cummins.
The Patriots' offense became all too predictable in the second half, however, as Carrier carried the ball on 17 of its 21 offensive plays to finish with 34 carries for 211 yards.
Fellow running back Brandon Graham was injured on the final play of the first half and taken to a hospital to have an apparent rib injury checked out, leaving Carrier alone in the backfield.
It worked on the first series of the third quarter, as Carrier ran the ball on 11 of the 12 plays in a 6-minute, 72-yard drive for what would be Lincoln's last score.
After his 10-yard scoring run, however, he didn't get more than 5 yards on any single carry. And Lincoln's offense, which had 302 yards to that point, managed only another 34.
There was no throwing threat, either, as Hinds went 1-for-9 and was intercepted on his final throw of the first half and his only attempt in the second half.
"We have a very difficult time throwing the football, so ... it's easier to defend the run, and that's what Washington County was doing. If we're going to do anything with our season, we've got to be able to throw the football."
Washington 7 0 6 35 — 48
10 7 7 0 — 24
— Tyree Railey 20 run (Seth Mattingly kick), 9:40.
— Austin Hinds 59 run (Carl-Lewis Cummins kick), 8:44.
— FG Cummins 32, 6:18.
Lincoln — Matt Carrier 37 run (Cummins kick), 9:23.
Lincoln — Carrier 10 run (Cummins kick), 5:46.
Washington — Quan Turner 49 run (kick failed), 5:12.
Washington — Railey 4 run (run failed), 11:54.
Washington — Turner 75 punt return (Turner run), 9:27.
Washington — Trae Abell 28 pass from Micheal Gash (Mattingly kick), 7:58.
Washington — Ben Simms 18 interception return (Mattingly kick), 4:48.
Washington — Railey 12 run (Mattingly kick), 2:10.
First downs WC,15 LC,14
Rushes-yards WC,34-236 LC,48-326
Passing WC,111 LC,12
Total yards WC,347 LC,338
Comp-Att-Int WC,9-13-1 LC,1-9-2
Fumbles-Lost WC,1-0 LC,2-1
Penalties-Yards WC,3-15 LC,4-20
RUSHING—Washington, Quan Turner 19-159, Tyree Railey 10-80, Micheal Gash 3-18, team 2-minus 21. Lincoln, Matt Carrier 34-211, Austin Hinds 6-88, Brandon Graham 5-16, Deon Shannon 2-8, Julian Calhoun 1-3.
PASSING— Washington, Gash 9-13-1-111. Lincoln, Hinds 1-9-2-12.
RECEIVING— Washington, Trae Abell 3-41, Kyle Curtsinger 2-31, John Morrison 2-21, Ben Simms 1-9, Tyler Smith 1-2. Lincoln, Jordan Coffman 1-12.