Lincoln County recovered from last weekend’s blowout loss at Danville in a big way, using a dominating performance to shut out Washington County 53-0 Friday at Death Valley.
Lincoln, which had lost four straight games to Washington, out-offensed the Commanders 364 yards to 63 in its first shutout since the 2007 season.
“We played hard for four quarters. I’m really proud of the kids,” Lincoln coach Mike Settles said. “So many kids made plays tonight and they feel good. To win 53-0 is really special. Having that running clock, the kids just love it.”
The Lincoln sideline cheered when the running clock started near the end of the third quarter, but the celebration had begun much earlier.
On the second drive of the game, lineman Logan Smith had the Lincoln contingency on its feet when he scooped up a Washington County fumble and rumbled 65 yards to the goal line.
“That’s a lineman’s dream right there,” Settles said. “I’m so happy for Logan Smith that he had the insight to pick the ball up and run. To know that Logan ran that much distance without getting caught was great.”
Washington was threatening at the Lincoln 25 when the Patriot defense knocked the ball out of quarterback Morgan Churchill’s hands to set up the Smith score.
“Austin McClure got back real fast after the snap and the ball was knocked loose as he (Churchill) tried to hand it off,” Smith said. “I saw the ball on the ground and just picked it up and took off running with it. I just thought I needed to do what I was coached to do – just get it in the end zone.”
Smith, a 5-9 200-pound junior, never looked back on his way to the goal line.
“I didn’t think about who was behind me, I was just running,” he said.
Boone Baird booted through the first of his six extra-point kicks to give Lincoln a 7-0 lead with 7:23 to go in the first quarter.
And the points just kept on coming.
After punting away the opening possession, Lincoln (2-1) came back to score on seven of its next eight possessions.
“It was a slow start for us I feel like offensively,” Settles said “That was a big play for us on defense, our second straight touchdown defensively. And the offense took over after that.”
Deonte Coulter, who rushed for a game-high 101 yards on 18 carries, scored Lincoln’s first offensive touchdown with 1:50 left in the first quarter, capping off an eight-play, 53-yard drive with a 3-yard run.
The Lincoln defense tallied again as the first quarter ended. Washington (0-3) had been pushed back to its own 8 when Lincoln linebacker Taylor Wilson broke through the line to tackle Churchill in the end zone for a safety and a 16-0 lead with 3 seconds left on the clock.
“That was a great play,” Settles said. “We brought Taylor Wilson on that blitz and he got that safety. I love it when we call plays for our kids to make plays and they execute. I thought we did a lot of that tonight.”
Eleven seconds later, Lincoln was back in the end zone. The Patriots fielded the ensuing kickoff on their own 46, and quarterback Justin Hubble made short work of the drive by hitting Austin Cress for a 56-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the series.
Logan Martin and Connor Patterson both scored for Lincoln before the first half ended to extend the Patriot lead to 36-0.
Martin, who rushed for 71 yards on nine carries, did most of the ball handling on a 13-play, 72-yard drive, carrying the ball seven times for 54 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown.
Patterson closed out the first-half scoring with a 2-yard punch up the middle with 1:32 on the clock.
Washington never threatened Lincoln. The Commanders managed just 2 yards rushing and 39 yards passing the first half and were held to just 63 yards of total offense.
“We were so aggressive. Our ‘D’ line really controlled the line of scrimmage,” said Settles. “We really played their scheme well. It was a tough scheme but they weren’t allowed to do a lot because we dominated up front.”
Lincoln would score three more times in the second half, with Baird kicking a 23-yard field goal midway of the third quarter and Cress pulling in a 21-yard touchdown pass from Hubble to start the running clock at 46-0. Marvin Robinson capped off the scoring in the fourth quarter with a 1-yard run.
“I was really proud of the way the kids executed tonight,” said Settles. “To say we’re 2-1 is something we haven’t said since I’ve been here and I feel really good about that.”
“Yes, we took a step back last week but our kids played hard, and I loved that. They came out and played hard tonight, too.”