BEREA - The Lincoln County football team gives the impression that it may be turning itself around.
After a bumpy 0-5 start, the Patriots now find themselves in a tie for first in Class 5A, District 7 play as Lincoln stayed undefeated in the district Friday night by dismantling the Madison Southern Eagles 54-24.
Lincoln gave up a touchdown to the Eagles on the game’s first possession but the Patriots came back strong, answering with three touchdowns to go on top 20-6 early in the second quarter. Lincoln added two more scores before the break to extend its lead to 34-12 and set the Patriots on course for the lopsided victory.
“This is the kind of game that we expect,” said Lincoln coach Mike Settles.”Offensively, we’re pretty darn good right now. We feel confidentabout what we’re doing and we’re coming together at the right time, peaking at the right time for the district.”
The Patriots (2-5, 2-0) put up the numbers statistically to prove Settles‘ offensive boast, amassing 417 yards offense, with 377 yards on the ground.
Senior back Deon Shannon had another stellar performance for the Patriots,rushing for 231 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries, and senior quarterback Ryne Otto came up big with 70 yards and three scores on five carries
“They’re eating the right food I guess. Deon, Ryne, the line ... our Booster Club must be feeding our kids right because they came out and reallyworked hard tonight,” Settles said.
Lincoln was in control for most of the game, with the exception of MadisonSouthern’s 75-yard opening drive. Carries of 10 and 20 yards by Adam Simpson, a 17-yard burst by freshman Damien Harris and a horse collar penaltyagainst the Patriots helped move the drive along then Coty Russell capped it off with a 1-yard plunge.
“Defensively, we came out asleep,” Settles said.”We knew they were capable of doing some good things offensively. Their offense is so tough todefend and prepare for, and they just caught us sleeping.”
After Lincoln blocked the Eagle extra-point attempt, Madison Southern (1-5, 0-2) was suddenly hit by lightning as Shannon burst from the backfield onLincoln’s first offensive play and scooted 85-yards to the goal line. Boone Baird booted the extra-point kick to put Lincoln on top for good, 7-6.
Otto scored the first of his three TDs with 1:50 left in the first quarter. Shannon moved the ball 55 yards from the Lincoln 34 to the Southern 11, Vinny Morris picked up two more yards to the 9 and Otto finished off the drive for a 13-6 Pat lead at the end of the first quarter.
It took just three plays for Lincoln to hit paydirt on its next possession.
The Patriots took over at their own 25, Morris carried the ball 16 yardsto the 41 and it looked like Otto was destined to score when he rolled right on a keeper and hit open field. The Eagles would catch up with Otto before he could score, pulling him down after 57 yards at the Eagle 2. Southern couldn’t stop Otto on the next play, however, as he punched it in to make it a 20-6 ballgame.
The Patriots would take a 34-12 lead into the break, with two scores tallied in the final 5:22 of the half. Logan Martin set up the first score with a 44-yard kickoff return to the Southern 29 then Shannon did all the ballhandling the rest of the way, ending with a 19-yard TD run.20
Lincoln sustained its longest drive of the half, 10 plays, just before thebreak, with Morris capping off the 59-yard possession with a 1-yard run asthe horn sounded.
The Eagles did score on Lincoln in the second quarter after Cody Ocelli blocked an Otto punt. Southern took possession at the Pat 24 and, on the first snap, Harris took the ball over for a 20-12 margin.
“It’s unfortunate the punt being blocked and them scoring on it. Obviously, there are some things we still need to get better at,” said Settles.
Other than the opening score and the excellent field position on the blocked punt, Madison Southern got little else off Lincoln in the first half. Onthe Eagles other four possessions of the half, Lincoln forced Southern to punt on fourth-and-20, fourth-and-11, fourth-and-18 and fourth-and-27.
“Our kids played so hard and made plays when we needed too. That’s notto say that Madison Soutern didn't play hard. They did. Our kids just really came out and made the plays,” said Settles
Madison Southern had 231 yards rushing for the game, led by Harris with 124 yards on seven carries and Simpson with 119 yards on six carries. DevonteLinville and Simpson combined for 4-for-5 passing for 85 yards.
“We were a little worried about stopping them. We know Madison Southern is well coached,” Settles said.”They’ve got some speed, they’re young and can be tough to defend against .”
Turnovers didn’t help the Madison Southern offense. The Eagles had a hard time holding onto the ball, fumbling the ball six times, losing yardage on five of the fumbles and possession on the final miscue.
Southern still managed to score in every quarter. Simpson scored with a 65-yard run in the third quarter and Harris went 75 yards to the goal line inthe fourth.
Shannon scored a 10-yard touchdown in the third for the Patriots and Lincoln’s two QB's, Otto and Justin Hubble, tallied the final two scores in the fourth. Otto scored on a 1-yard run and Hubble carried it over from the 9 for the 54-24 final.
“I’m so happy for our kids. We had a lot of kids playing there at the end tonight,” said Settles.”Our kids are having fun and that’s the bottom line 96 to have fun playing the game. And any time you win, it makes it that much more fun.”
With Pulaski County and Madison Southern victories in the district books, Settles and the Patriots can now prepare for the high-scoring Cardinals of South Laurel. The Cards have scored 33+ points in six out of seven games.
“We’re taking one game at a time and we’re looking forward to the challenge of playing South Laurel,” said Settles.”Defensively, we’ve got our work cut out for us. They’re scoring a lot of points and we’ll be on the road. It’s going to be tough but we’re going to do our best tobe ready.”