STANFORD - Logan Martin rushed for 153 yards and four touchdowns Friday night to lead Lincoln County to its first season-opening win since 2005.
For the past six seasons, Lincoln has had to settle for the runner-up trophy in its own bowl, but the Patriots finally recaptured the winners’ trophy Friday by defeating Casey County 35-23 in the opening game of the PBK¿Bank Death Valley Bowl.
“Our first goal (of the season) was to beat Casey and win the Death Valley Bowl, and we did that tonight,” Lincoln coach Mike Settles said. “We didn’t play the way we wanted to tonight, but whether you win ugly or win well, a win’s a win. We’re proud for our kids. To start 1-0 is great.”
Martin, a 5-8 senior, scored on runs of 28, 2, 18 and 14 yards and was named Lincoln’s most valuable player. The Patriots gained 240 yards rushing for the night and 309 yards overall.
But Martin and Class AAAAA Lincoln struggled before gaining the victory, with Class AAA Casey striking first and fast.
Alex Bolin, who led the area in rushing last year with 1,704 yards and 19 touchdowns, made quick work of the Rebels’ third possession, hot-footing his way 77 yards to the end zone to put Casey on top. Quarterback Wyatt Bishop added a two-point conversion run for an 8-0 start.
Bolin and Bishop are Casey’s main offensive weapons, and both produced with the help of their line, as Bolin, who was the Rebels’ MVP, racked up a game-high 196 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries and Bishop ran for 62 yards in a 271-yard rushing effort.
“That’s kind of our little scheme,” Casey coach Sam Marple said. “We can’t really spread the field with a lot of athletes, so we try to do a ball-control offense. They did a great job tonight, especially it being the first night of the season, of getting us in good position, making good reads and making good plays. They fought hard.”
Settles said stopping Casey didn’t come easy early on.
“They were running an offensive scheme we hadn’t seen before and it was kind of hard to stop that,” he said. “Our kids kept playing hard, and I was glad they found a way to stop that.”
Lincoln managed to trip up Bolin on Casey’s next possession by forcing the senior running back to fumble. Senior lineman Jonathan Hardwick recovered the fumble for the Patriots at the Rebels’ 32-yard line, and two plays later Martin sprinted 28 yards to the goal line for his first touchdown. Boone Baird added the first of his five extra-point kicks to get Lincoln within 8-7 midway through the second quarter.
The 8-7 score stood at halftime as both offenses stalled. Casey punted and fumbled away two possessions. Lincoln also committed a turnover, but it was a personal foul penalty that really knocked the Patriots back, as they were pushed back to their own 3 after T.J. Torres was ejected from the game.
The Patriots were in prime scoring position to start the second half after a 54-yard kickoff return by Trevor Gaines to the Casey 33. Connor Patterson, who had 62 yards rushing on 12 carries, ran 17 yards for a first down and another 4 yards to move the ball to the 12. Martin took over from there, capping the four-play drive with a 2-yard push up the middle to give Lincoln its first lead at 14-8.
Bolin got the score back for Casey on its next possession. Bishop and Bolin each had two first-down runs in the series to move the ball from the Rebels’ 20 to the Lincoln 3, then Bolin took it the rest of the way to even the game at 14-all. Bishop then eased Casey back on top 16-14 with a two-point conversion run.
Lincoln regained the lead for good on the ensuing possession, going 69 yards in eight plays. Quarterback Justin Hubble, who had four completions for 62 yards, connected with Austin Cress on passes of 14 and 36 yards to get the ball to the Casey 3. Austin McClure leaped over the Casey line to get to the 1, then Hubble carried it on in to give Lincoln a 21-16 lead.
Martin tallied another touchdown early in the fourth on an 18-yard run to extend Lincoln’s lead to 27-16. But Rance Carman answered for the Rebels to make it 28-22, capping a 63-yard, nine-play drive with a 2-yard run.
“If you’d told us coming in that we’d be down six points with 6 minutes to play in the fourth quarter we’d have said, ‘We’ll take that and go with it.’” Marple said. “We’d have really liked to have pulled it out at the end, but you can’t get ’em all.”
“The big thing is, we don’t have to play 5A football every single week,” he added. “We’ll start playing 3A, so hopefully those (roster) numbers will start to even out a little bit.”
Casey got no closer than the 6-yard line over the remainder of the game.
Lincoln took its next possession 67 yards to the end zone, with Martin scoring from 14 yards out to make it 34-23. Gaines picked off Bishop to end Casey’s final possession, and Hubble then took the snap and a knee on the final two plays of the game to kill the clock and seal the Lincoln win.
“Our kids faced a lot of adversity tonight. We challenged our kids. Casey challenged our kids. Man, they played so hard,” Settles said. “Our kids really responded in the second half and worked hard for the win.”
Settles said one challenge Lincoln didn’t face Friday was fatigue.
“I’m so proud of all that work in the offseason because we really, I felt like, were in great shape there the second half, and that was really the difference in the game.”
Casey County 0 8 8 7 — 23
Lincoln County 0 7 14 14 — 35
Casey — Alex Bolin 77 run (Wyatt Bishop run), 10:56.
Lincoln — Logan Martin 28 run (Boone Baird kick), 7:16.
Lincoln — Martin 2 run (Baird kick), 10:16.
Casey — Bolin 3 run (Bishop run), 6:00.
Lincoln — Justin Hubble 1 run (Baird kick), 2:37.
Lincoln — Martin 18 run (Baird kick), 10:33.
Casey — Rance Carman 2 run (Brian Fair kick), 6:49.
Lincoln — Martin 14 run (Baird kick), 1:40.
First downs 12 11
Rushes-yards 42-271 42-240
Passing 42 69
Total Net Yards 313 309
Comp-Att-Int 2-6-1 4-8-1
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 1-0
Penalties-Yards 5-35 8-71
RUSHING—Casey, Alex Bolin 20-196, Wyatt Bishop 16-62, Rance Carman 5-13, Jaylan Weddle 1-0. Lincoln, Logan Martin 22-153, Connor Patterson 12-62, Justin Hubble 6-15, Austin McClure 2-10.
PASSING—Casey, Bishop 2-6-1-42. Lincoln, Hubble 4-8-1-69.
RECEIVING—Casey, Kyle Eads 1-28, Meko Randle 1-13. Lincoln, Austin Cress 2-50, Gerald Miller 1-10, Trevor Gaines 1-9.