STANFORD — Strains of “Oh, Happy Day!” boomedfrom the Death Valley stadium speakers Friday, and boy, was it ever a happy day for Lincoln County.
After three consecutive losses, the Patriots finally got back on the winning track on homecoming night, scoring early and often as they cruised 63-20 over South Laurel for their first district win.
Lincoln scored six first-half touchdowns to open up a 42-6 lead over South Laurel and never looked back.
“There’s no doubt the first half was tremendous. We came out and played well and played hard. We controlled the line of scrimmage,” Lincoln coach Mike Settles said. “We needed a win so bad. This has been three weeks coming, and it feels great. There has been a lot of adversity the past several weeks, and for us to turn it around is great.”
Marvin Robinson and Logan Martin helped lead Lincoln to the win, with Robinson rushing for a game-high 125 yards with three touchdowns on 11 carries and Martin getting 101 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries in a 348-yard offensive effort, all of it on the ground.
“If you control the line of scrimmage like we did tonight, you really don’t need to throw it,” Settles said. “They loaded the box, I mean, they had 10 guys from tight end to tackle on us, and they just dared us to throw the ball. But we really didn’t need to, because we were opening the seams. Our offensive line really played well tonight.”
It wasn’t only the offense that was setting Lincoln (4-4, 1-2 Class AAAAA, District 7) up for an easy victory. South Laurel (1-6, 0-3) struggled against the Patriots’ defense, especially in the first half, managing just 81 yards in the first two periods on its strength — the passing game — and being held to minus-7 yards rushing.
The Cardinals, who got on the plus side offensively with 283 passing yards, were intercepted three times in the first half.
Lincoln’s Trevor Gaines got the first pick off South Laurel’s Tyler Detherage midway through the first quarter to set up the Patriots’ first score. Gaines, who had returned the interception for a touchdown only to have it nullified by a penalty, still managed to give Lincoln excellent field position at the South Laurel 25-yard line. Robinson carried the ball all four plays of the drive, finishing with a 3-yard touchdown run.
Detherage, who was 3 for 5 for 58 yards with two interceptions, was picked off again less than 4 minutes later as the Cardinals drove inside the Lincoln 25. The pass intended for Jason Mitchell, was tipped by Mitchell into the hands of T.J. Torres, who then high-tailed it 97 yards to the end zone to put Lincoln up 14-0.
“They throw a lot more than they run the ball, so I was just coming out with the mindset, ‘I’m going to get an interception, and I’m just going to run as fast as I can and see what I can get with it,’” Torres said. “I’m supposed to stay over the middle, get over top, and that’s what I did, and I ended up coming up with the pick. That’s what Coach wanted me to do. He told me to read the quarterback. I read the guy coming to the middle, and I just knew I had it.”
Torres also knew he couldn’t have scored on his own, acknowledging the heady play of teammates Deonte Coulter and Dalton Godbey.
“As soon as I scored, I told Deonte Coulter and Dalton Godbey, you know, that if they weren’t blocking for me that I wouldn’t have gotten the interception return, so I thanked them for it and gave them a high-five,” he said.
South Laurel would answer Lincoln’s big play with one of its own, as Mitchell got back the six points with an 86-yard return on the ensuing kickoff to get the Cardinals on the scoreboard.
That was as close as the Cardinals got, however, as Lincoln rolled off 28 unanswered points in the second quarter.
Coulter got the scoring surge started on Lincoln’s next possession, capping off a 73-yard drive with a 31-yard scoring run a minute into the second quarter.
Martin then took over, scoring all three of his touchdowns in the final 6:40 of the first half.
The senior running back scored his first touchdown on Lincoln’s next drive. A bad punt snap set Lincoln up at the South Laurel 18 and, four plays later, Martin carried the ball in from the 1. South Laurel fumbled the ensuing kickoff at the Cardinal 32 and Martin ended the short drive with a 4-yard touchdown.
South Laurel was driving inside the Lincoln 30 with just seconds left in the half when Torres came up with his second big pick, this time off Jonathan Jenkins. Torres returned the ball 84 yards before being brought down at the South Laurel 4, and Martin ran the rest of the way to give Lincoln its 42-6 lead.
Lincoln’s offense did have its stumbles, most notably the third quarter when the Patriots turned the ball over four times, but South Laurel was not able to convert on the miscues until late in the third quarter when Jenkins, who was 21 for 30 for 209 yards with one interception, completed a 35-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Prichard on fourth-and-8.
Lincoln got the ball back just before the end of the period after a Jenkins fumble to set up a 39-yard touchdown run by Robinson. Robinson scored again early in the fourth on a 25-yard run, and Coulter finished Lincoln’s scoring with a 12-yard touchdown.
“Other than (four third-quarter turnovers), we had a lot of fun tonight,” Settles said. “We had a lot of guys get in tonight and make plays on both sides of the ball and special teams, as well.
“I’ve got to tell you, it’s a lot more fun winning than it is losing, and our kids got to experience that tonight.”
South Laurel 6 0 8 6 — 20
Lincoln County 14 28 7 14 — 63
Lincoln — Marvin Robinson 3 run (Boone Baird kick), 5:26.
Lincoln — T.J. Torres 97 interception return (Baird kick), 1:51.
South Laurel — Jason Mitchell 86 kickoff return (kick failed), 1:35.
Lincoln — Deonte Coulter 31 run (Baird kick), 11:02.
Lincoln — Logan Martin 1 run (Baird kick), 6:40.
Lincoln — Martin 4 run (Baird kick), 3:00.
Lincoln — Martin 4 run (Baird kick), :16.
South Laurel — Jeremy Prichard 35 pass from Jonathan Jenkins (Landon Bray pass from Jenkins), 1:36.
Lincoln — Coulter 39 run (Baird kick), :23.
Lincoln — Robinson 25 run (Baird kick), 11:42.
South Laurel — Aaron Quinn 1 pass from Jenkins (run failed), 4:21.
Lincoln — Coulter 12 run (Baird kick), 2:06.
First downs 13 14
Rushes-yards 27-(-25) 45-348
Passing 283 0
Total Net Yards 258 348
Comp-Att-Int 25-36-3 0-2-0
Fumbles-Lost 5-2 4-4
Penalties-Yards 8-58 4-35
RUSHING—South Laurel, Josh Phelps 8-20, Devin Pennington 3-11, Landon Bray 8-11, Tyler Detherage 2-2, Matt Slavey 1-minus 21, Jonathan Jenkins 5-minus 48. Lincoln, Marvin Robinson 11-125, Logan Martin 16-101, Deonte Coulter 7-73, Connor Patterson 7-38, Josh Stull 1-9, Justin Hubble 3-2.
PASSING—South Laurel, Jenkins 21-30-1-209, Detherage 3-5-2-58, Bray 0-1-0-0. Lincoln, Hubble 0-2-0-0.
RECEIVING—South Laurel, Jeremy Prichard 6-157, Jacob Hale 6-53, Jason Mitchell 5-36, Aaron Quinn 3-20, Bray 2-8, Pennington 1-7, Zac Swanson 1-3, Austin Rader 1-minus 1.