Prep Football: Lincoln coach looking for Patriots to start moving forward
Lincoln County tight end Austin¿Cress has 10 catches for 245 yards and three touchdows going into The Patriots' home game Friday against South Laurel. (Nancy Leedy / October 3, 2012)
Coach Mike Settles said the Patriots have been a better team at the end of the season than at the beginning in each of his four seasons at Lincoln, but that isn’t necessarily the case this season — at least not yet.
Lincoln won three of its first four games but brings a three-game losing streak into its game Friday with South Laurel, the team with which it shares the basement in Class AAAAA, District 7. And Settles said not only are the Patriots not headed in the right direction, they don’t seem to be going anywhere at all.
“Every team I’ve coached here has gotten better throughout the season, and right now we’re just stagnant. As a coaching staff, we’ve just got to find ways to create plays and help our team have some success,” Settles said.
That could come against South Laurel, a team with a porous defense and a five-game losing streak of its own. And that could be the start of the kind of turnaround Settles and Lincoln have become accustomed to.
A year ago, the Patriots won four of their last five regular-season games after an 0-5 first half, and they won their last three regular-season games in 2010 after losing six of their first seven. Even in the two seasons prior to that, when they won a combined three games, they were more competitive in the second half of the season than in the first.
But this season, consecutive losses to Wayne County, Pulaski County and Madison Southern have canceled out any gains they made in the first week of the season.
“We’ve just had some bad luck and played very inconsistent the last several weeks,” Settles said. “We’ve been looking to get out of this rough spot the last few weeks, and hopefully we can do it.
“No doubt we’ve played some quality teams the last few weeks, and we’ve just got to learn from what we’ve done right and improve.”
Lincoln (3-4, 0-2 district) has scored between 17 and 19 points in each of its last four games, but the Patriots hope to fare better on offense against South Laurel (1-6, 0-2), which has given up an average of 42 points per game in its six losses.
“We feel like offensively we could have a lot of success,” Settles said.
Logan Martin leads Lincoln’s offense with 532 rushing yards and eight touchdowns, and quarterback Justin Hubble has thrown for 400 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
The Cardinals scored 41 points last week in an overtime loss to Southwestern, and Settles said their spread offense could pose a problem.
“Defensively, they do some things that hurt us,” he said. “They like to really stretch the field vertically, and that’s hurt us in the past. Their offense, being a spread offense, forces a lot of our guys to make tackles in the open field, and that’s something we’ve struggled at.”
South Laurel, which lost a one-point decision to Lincoln last year in London, led Southwestern for most of its game last week, then rallied to score with 30 seconds remaining to force overtime. The Cardinals scored first in overtime, then lost on a two-point conversion.
Settles said he hopes this week’s homecoming game will light a fire under the Patriots, and he’s encouraged by the fact that they haven’t become discouraged during their losing streak.
“They came in ready to work this week. We haven’t lost the kids at all,” he said. “Some of the goals we set are still attainable, and we’re going to focus on achieving some of those goals.”