LONDON - The Lincoln County Patriots pulled off a great Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde impersonation Friday, playing spoiler to South Laurel's football homecoming with a 31-30 come-from-behind win.
Lincoln retreated to the locker room after an awful first half, trailing 17-0. But the Patriots, refusing to throw in the towel, roared out of the halftime break to score 21 unanswered points then held on to improve to 3-5 overall and a perfect 3-0 in Class 5A, District 7 play.
"Praise God! What a great comeback" said Lincoln coach Mike Settles. ‘Wow! This is probably one of the biggest comebacks I’ve been involved in. Our kids showed so much heart, so much character. We were really down in the first half because our kids didn’t come ready to play. But what a comeback, 31-30. I think it came down to want-to, heart and conditioning.’
Lincoln wasted little time starting its comeback effort, receiving the ball to open the second half and
taking just three plays to hit paydirt. The Patriots took over at their own 35 and, after two short runs, Deon Shannon burst through the South Laurel defense and sped 57 yards to the end zone.
With momentum on its side, Lincoln managed to get the ball back on the ensuing kickoff. The Baird kick hit South Laurel’s Josh Phelps on the leg and Lincoln’s Jonathan Hardwick was quick on the ball to give the Pats’ possession at their own 49 but the drive stalled at the South Laurel 19 after a Shannon fumble.
However, one good turn-over apparently deserved another as Vinny Morris intercepted South Laurel’s Tyler Dethridge on the Cardinals’ first play after the fumble, and returned the ball 30 yards for a touchdown. The Baird PAT got Lincoln within 17-14.
A 17-yard keeper by Dethridge got South Laurel (3-5, 1-2) past midfield on its first sustained possession of the second half only to have the Cardinals lose the ball on downs.
Lincoln took possession at its own 40 and then Shannon went to work, taking the handoff from Ryne Otto, racing around the left side of the line, then going 60 yards to the end zone to give the Patriots their first lead, 21-17.
Shannon outrushed South Laurel all by himself in the district battle, gaining 308 yards on 30 carries ‘ South Laurel rushed for 132 yards. He picked up 247 of those yards in the second half and had 171 yards on his three TDs.
“What can I say about Deon? Deon is so motivated right now,” Settles said. “I just love him to death and he works so hard.”
Good fortune didn’t always rain down on Lincoln. On the ensuing kickoff, for example, the Patriots thought they got possession back on the onsides kick. The officials agreed - initially. After a few rounds of Lincoln did, Lincoln didn’t, the officials finally settled on “didn’t.” Three plays into South Laurel’s 53-yard drive, Dethridge, who was 17-for-37 for 239 yards, connected with Jeremy Prichard for a 41-yard TD strike. Matt Slavey’s kick put the Cardinals back on top, 24-21 with 5:04 left in the third.
Lincoln would not regain the lead before the third quarter ended, but the Patriots would even the score at 24-all. A 65-yard kickoff return by Shannon set the Patriots up at the South Laurel 30 and a horse collar penalty against the Cardinals moved the ball to the 5, but Lincoln would get no closer, and Baird stepped up to boot a 22-yard field goal to force the tie.
Lincoln went on top to stay with 7:58 left in the game when Shannon broke down the left sideline for a 56-yard touchdown to make it 31-24.
South Laurel would not fade quietly into the cool night, though. A 51-yard kickoff return by Tristan Barnett had the Cardinals threatening at the Pat 32 and Devin Pennington, who led the Cardinals with 84 yards rushing, methodically drove the ball down to the Lincoln 14. But then Lincoln’s Cameron Honaker stepped up to kill the drive, intercepting a Dethridge pass intended for Prichard in the end zone.
“I noticed a difference in the fourth quarter in our kids conditioning,” said Settles. “South Laurel was tired and our kids were just focused and ready to win the game. They got some breaks but our kids made some big plays.”
The Cardinals were back on the charge with 1:59 to play after Lincoln fumbled the ball at the South Laurel 25. Seven plays into the series, the Patriot sideline was celebrating after another Honaker pick but the change of possession was reversed on a holding penalty against the Patriots. Two plays later, Dethridge connected with Josh Brown on a 40-yard pass to get the Cardinals within 31-30.
There would be no tie.
Slavey attempted to deadlock the game but Lincoln had none of it, with Quint Blair and Hunter Mason leaping forward to block the kick and preserve the win.
‘What a great blocked extra point at the end of the game,’ said Settles. ‘We called timeout and we didn’t do a whole lot different than we normally do but the kids knew the urgency. They knew we had to block that kick.’
“Our kids have grown up so fast. I’m so proud of them,” he added. “What a comeback - on the road, down 17 points. That showed so much character.”
Lincoln got the block on the Cardinals’ final kick but the Patriots weren’t denying their hosts early.
The Cardinals scored all their points in the first quarter on their first three possessions.
Dethridge capped off a 14-play, 61-yard drive with a 15-yard TD pass to Jeff Hall on the opening possession. Three plays into the second drive, Pennington ran 41 yards for six. Then Slavey pushed through a 25-yard field goal before the end of the period to put the Cards up 17-0.
“Tonight, it came down to they wanted to win it more than we did in the first half, and we wanted it way more in the second half,” said Settles. “Thankfully, we scored more points than they did.”
Lincoln 0 0 24 7 - 31
South Laurel 17 0 7 6 - 30
South Laurel: 6:22 ‘ Jeff Hale 15-yard pass from Tyler Dethridge (Matt Slavey kick).
South Laurel: 4:18 ‘ Devin Pennington 41-yard run (Slavey kick).
South Laurel: 1:25 ‘ Slavey 25-yard field goal.
Lincoln: 10:30 ‘ Deon Shannon 57-yard run (Boone Baird kick).
Lincoln: 8:34 ‘ Vinny Morris 30-yard interception return (Baird kick).
Lincoln: 6:11 ‘ Shannon 60-yard run (Baird kick).
South Laurel: 5:04 ‘ Jeremy Prichard 41-yard pass from Dethridge (Slavey kick).
Lincoln: 1:28 ‘ Baird 22-yard field goal.
Lincoln: 7:58 ‘ Shannon 56-yard run (Baird kick).
South Laurel: :29 ‘ Josh Brown 40-yard pass from Dethridge (kick blocked).