SOMERSET — The high school football post-season is still three weeks away, but for Lincoln County, the playoffs have already started.
Fourth place and a playoff berth in Class AAAAA, District 7 were on the line here Friday night, and the Patriots did their part to make sure their season is extended by defeating Southwestern 24-14 at the Reservation.
“Our kids knew the importance of this game. They had a choice to make and they chose to play to win tonight,” Lincoln coach Mike Settles said. “(Southwestern) is a team that last year knocked us out of winning the district championship, and to knock them out of making the playoffs feels pretty darn good.”
Lincoln (5-4, 2-2 district) led 14-0 at halftime and thwarted a second-half Warrior comeback effort to secure the fourth-place spot.
Marvin Robinson, who had a game-high 118 yards on 28 carries, got the Patriots’ scoring started. Both teams fumbled away their opening possessions, but Lincoln hit paydirt on its second drive with Robinson finishing off the 70-yard series with a 12-yard scoring run with 9:14 still to play in the first quarter.
Both offenses stumbled after the opening score, with Southwestern either punting or fumbling the ball while Lincoln punted and threw it away.
Boone Baird, Lincoln’s placekicker, tried to end the foibles and build on the lead when he attempted a 50-yard field goal in the second quarter. However, the kick fell just a couple yards short of the uprights.
The Patriots would put up points on their next possession. Lincoln fielded a Southwestern punt at the Warriors’ 36-yard line and needed just eight plays to reach the end zone. Justin Hubble completed a 14-yard pass to Trevor Gaines on the drive and Robinson ran for a first down before Hubble connected with Austin Cress for a 5-yard touchdown pass and a 14-0 lead with 1:44 left in the half.
Hubble finished 8-for-13 passing for the night for 64 yards.
“We had to improve our passing game and we did that tonight,” Settles said. “We had some play-action that we worked on. I just love the way that it opens up our running game, as well. If we have success throwing the ball like that, that softens up the defense a little more and we have more effectiveness running the football.”
The 14-0 halftime margin would be Lincoln’s biggest lead of the night. Southwestern (3-5, 1-3) wasted little time making a dent in the Patriot lead as the second half got under way.
Jesse Meece returned the opening kickoff 30 yards to the Lincoln 47, and Logan Campisano carried the ball the rest of the way. The junior running back, who led Southwestern with 86 yards rushing, picked up most of those yards on the third-quarter drive, capping it off with a 2-yard touchdown.
Austin Smiddy added the two-point conversion run to make it 14-8.
“I could tell their kids got challenged at halftime and they just responded. And our kids didn’t,” Settles said. “It gets me so frustrated because we talked about that stuff, and how we needed it to go 3-and-out. Our goal is to start the second half 3-and-out against a team.”
“We didn’t do that. They scored and got some momentum, and went for two and got it. That’s when we knew we were in for a battle. I mean, Southwestern’s well-coached. They’re tough. They’re physical. And they showed it on that one drive there.”
Lincoln got back the touchdown on its next possession, going 57 yards in 10 plays. The drive culminated in a 2-yard touchdown run by Connor Patterson.
Patterson, who rushed for 50 yards on 13 carries, knew that Lincoln had the ability to hold off the Warriors.
“Felt confident that we could do the same thing after the half,” he said. “We just had to keep playing hard and show them whose boss.”
Lincoln held onto its lead but the Warriors would add one more score. Smiddy captained a drive from the Southwestern 30 all the way down to the Lincoln 19 only to fumble a snap for a 9-yard loss. The sophomore quarterback, who went 2-for-7 overall with one interception, made up for the fumble on the following play, hitting James Vinson for a 28-yard touchdown pass for a 21-14 ball game at the end of the third quarter.
Lincoln’s offense guaranteed the win for the Patriots in the fourth quarter, controlling the ball for 10 minutes of the 12-minute period.
Baird finished out the night’s scoring with 8:16 to play when he connected for a 20-yard field goal for the 24-14 final.
“We’ve got a great system that we run offensively. It doesn’t look pretty a lot of times, but it is effective and we use the clock as you can tell,” Settles said. “I love that our kids made that decision to win. We were so much more of a disciplined team tonight and that results in a win for us.”
“I’m proud of our kids. I love it when they play hard, and they did tonight. Our kids responded and executed and, other than a couple mistakes, we played well. The defense played well. After a three-game losing streak, to turn around and have two wins is very gratifying.”
Lincoln 7 7 7 3 - 24
Southwestern 0 0 14 0 - 14
Lincoln: 9:14 – Marvin Robinson 12-yard run (Boone Baird kick).
Lincoln: 1:44 – Austin Cress 5-yard pass from Justin Hubble (Baird kick).
Southwestern: 9:22 – Logan Campisano 2-yard run (Austin Smiddy run).
Lincoln: 4:19 – Connor Patterson 2-yard run (Baird kick).
Southwestern: :31.1 – James Vinson 28-yard pass from Smiddy (pass failed).
Lincoln: 8:16 – Baird 20-yard FG.
First Downs 15 9
Rushing 48-170 33-107
Passing Yards 64 33
Passing 8-13-1 2-7-1
Total offense 234 140
Fumbles/lost 2/1 5/2
Penalties/yards 9/73 5/45
Rushing - Lincoln; Marvin Robinson: 28 carries, 118 yards, TD; Connor Patterson: 13 carries, 50 yards, TD; Logan Martin: 2 carries, 4 yards; Justin Hubble: 5 carries, (-2) yards. Southwestern; Logan Campisano: 17 carries, 86 yards, TD. Jordan Maggard: 9 carries, 24 yards. Chase Robinson: 1 carry, 14 yards. Austin Smiddy: 6 carries, (-17) yards.
Passing- Lincoln; Justin Hubble –¿8-13-1, 64. Southwestern, Austin Smiddy – 2-7-1, 33.
Receiving: Trevor Gaines – 5-48; Gerald Miller – 1-8; Austin Cress – 1-5, TD; Connor Patterson – 1-3. Southwestern; James Vinson – 1-28, TD; Gunnar Pittman – 1-5.