Last Friday in Folkston, It was a game of two halves, as the pigskin bounced the Red Devils' way the first two quarters, and the home team's way the second half. Overtime settled the playoff contest, 23-22 in Charlton County's favor after being tied at 16 at the end of four quarters.
This "rebuilding" season, by most accounts, has been successful. Last summer, few expected the Devils to do as well as they did this season, what with a new head coach and only ten seniors on the team.
Under first year head coach Kevin Banks, and with new faces on the coaching staff, the Devils won five straight games. Those included extending decades-long winning streaks over Warren County, Hancock Central, McCormick, and GMC. They almost pulled off a huge upset of #1 Aquinas in the battle for the Region 7-A subregion B championship.
They did upset Stratford Academy, the defending GISA Class AAA champ, the following week, and almost stunned 20-point favorite Charlton County this past Friday.
The Devils extended their state record to 41 consecutive years earning a playoff berth. They have won at least seven games in 41 of the last 42 seasons. This was the 42nd consecutive non-losing season for the Red Devils.
All this was done while starting several freshmen and sophomores. While the current seniors will certainly be missed next year, the future is indeed very bright for the Lincoln County football program.
After short first drives by both teams, Charlton County drove to the LC 36 before punting to the LC 22. The Devils drove to the Indian 5 on 12 plays, with a 43-yard run by senior QB LaKeith Lockhart being the long-gainer. Ryan O'Neill booted a 24-yard field goal with 11:09 left in the half.
On the following kickoff, the Indians failed to field the kick and the Devils recovered at the 25. Big Red gained one first down before Norman scored from eight yards out with 7:59 left before halftime. O'Neill's kick gave the Devils a 10-0 advantage.
Late in the second quarter, Charlton blocked a Devil punt and took over at the LC 21. Two plays gained a first down at the LC 6. After the Devils stopped the Indian rusher for no gain, Marquis Leverett grabbed a pass attempt and scurried down the home sideline with Indians on the warpath behind him. He won the 99-yard race to the endzone as time expired. The PAT kick failed, but the Devils led 16-0 at the half.
Lincoln County spent most of the second half defending its goal line. On three possessions the Devils stopped the Indians inside the LC 20, including eight plays from inside the LC 7. After stopping the Indians on downs at the LC 4 as the third quarter ended, the Devils fumbled the pigskin back to the home team at the LC 2. An illegal procedure penalty nullified an Indian TD, and then the Devils stopped Charlton on four plays to end the threat.
Lincoln then ran the ball to the 15 where the ballcarrier was hit and the pigskin popped into the air. The Indians grabbed the ball and returned it to the endzone for their first points of the night. Their two-point conversion was successful, cutting the Devils' lead in half, 16-8, with 9:57 left in regulation.
The Devils managed one first down on their possession, running four minutes off the clock before the drive fizzled. After a punt, the Indians took over at their five yard line with 5:50 left. They ran 20 plays, scoring on a 22-yard pass to their running back. Five times during the drive the Devil Defense stopped the Indians on third down, but gave up just enough yards on fourth down for the drive to continue. The touchdown came on the last fourth down, with seven yards to go. The two-point conversion was good, evening the game with 29 seconds left.
The Devils picked up ten yards on their final drive in regulation before time ran out.
Lincoln County had the ball first in overtime, with senior Jamar Norman scoring on a three-yard drive. The PAT kick was blocked, leaving the score 22-16 with Charlton's opportunity to come.
The Indians scored on a two-yard run, again tying the score. Charlton's kick was good, securing the win 23-22 and advancing them to the quarterfinals against Hawkinsville.
Jamar Norman ran for 71 yards on 19 carries in the game. For the season, he rushed for 819 yards on 129 carries with 10 touchdowns. LaKeith Lockhart carried 11 times for 65 yards, increasing his season total to 538 yards on 92 carries with five TDs. For the year, Lockhart completed 27 of 55 pass attempts for 356 yards and 4 touchdowns.
For the game, Charlton ran 68 plays for 233 yards. The Devils had 49 plays for 174 yards. Yet, the Devils came oh-so-close to winning and advancing in the playoffs. Three straight games saw these Devils "over-achieve", and the community should be very proud of them and their coaches. GO DEVILS IN 2015!
That was never more true than last Friday night in Lincolnton. Lincoln County's Red Devils added another amazing story to the legend of Buddy Bufford Field with their no-time-left 21-20 win over Stratford Academy.
Lining up, getting set, and getting the scoring play off as the clock ticked to zero was amazing enough. LaKeith Lockhart finding Midarious Roberts open on fourth down across the field in the end zone for the touchdown was great. Jamar Norman barely scoring on the PAT run to give the Devils the win was fantastic.
The Red Devil players and coaches celebrated in the endzone as the visiting Eagles stood on the field in total disbelief. This "fantastic finish" will be talked about for years to come.
The Devils came into the game as seven-point underdogs to the defending GISA Class AAA champions. The Macon private school had lost by one point to #1 Aquinas earlier in the season. Aquinas whipped Tattnall Square Academy 49-21 to secure the Region 7-A title for the second straight year.
The victory all but guarantees the Devils a spot in the Class A Public playoff field. The Class A playoffs start November 21 after no games this week. The announcement of the final playoff field was scheduled after press time for this week's Journal, but unofficial projections indicate the Devils may be headed way down south to Folkston to take on the 9-1 Charlton County Indians.
QB LaKeith Lockhart called his own number on the first play from scrimmage, veered toward the left sideline, and ran 69 yards to the endzone. Ryan O'Neill's PAT kick gave the Devils a surprising 7-0 lead just 24 seconds into the game.
A good kickoff return and runs of 15 and 16 yards moved the Eagles to the LC 30. The Devil Defense stiffened, stopping Stratford for no gain on 4th-and-4 at the LC 24.
The Devils gained three first downs before the drive fizzled as the SA 37. A great punt by O'Neill started the Eagles at their 5. Twelve plays produced four first downs and moved the visitors to the LC 39. The Eagle ballcarrier then went left and outraced the Devil defenders to the endzone. The PAT kick was low, leaving the Devils ahead 7-6 with 8:50 left in the half.
Five plays gained a first down and 16 yards before the Devils faced a 4th-and-2 at the SA 48. The Devils chose to go for the first down, but Norman was able to gain only one.
Stratford's strong running attack was difficult to stop, with the Eagles scoring on a 14-yard run with just under two minutes left in the first half. The PAT kick was good for a 13-7 advantage.
The Eagles took the second half kickoff and picked up one first down before Marquis Leverett sacked the Eagle quarterback for a nine-yard loss at the SA 24. Stratford rushed for 7 before Leverett and Norman broke up a third-down pass attempt and forced a punt.
Lockhart rushed for 13, Norman for 11, and Quay Hartfield for 12 on consecutive plays for a first down at the Stratford 26. Hartfield then battled his way into the endzone with 7:07 left in the third quarter. The extra point kick went wide left, leaving the game knotted at 13.
The Devil Defense again played well, stopping the visitor charge at midfield. Lincoln County was unable to escape from deep in their end and punted back to the Eagles at the LC 46. Stratford scored on a 26-yard run with 6:08 left in the game. The kick was good for a 20-13 lead for the private school.
Hartfield returned the kickoff 30 yards to the LC 42. He then rushed for nine yards before Lockhart gained four for a first down a the Eagle 45. Two plays lost two yards, causing the Devils to take a time-out with 3:12 left.
Lockhart passed 11 yards to Xavier Gartrell on the right sideline, leaving the Devils inches shy of a first down. Lockhart kept the pigskin and gained the first down. Hartfield picked up six and Jayden Robinson three yards to setup 3rd-and-1 at the Eagle 26. Lockhart again picked up the first down, to the 24 with about two minutes left.
Hartfield rushed for three then five yards -- 3rd-and-2 with 1:17 left. Lockhart rushed for five and the first -- 1:05 left. Hartfield rushed for one to the 10, with LC calling their second timeout with 43 seconds left. Norman picked up five yards, with LC using their final timeout with 22 seconds left. Lockhart, after almost fumbling the snap, rushed over the right side for about four yards, but the Devils could not stop the clock.
Somehow the home team was able to line up and get the fourth-down play off. Video confirmed that the snap occurred simultaneously with the clock changing to "0:00". With three Eagles about to tackle him, Lockhart jumped and passed to Roberts on the left side of the endzone for the touchdown.
The Devils could have went for the PAT kick to tie the game, but Coach Kevin Banks had made the decision with two minutes to go that, given the chance, his team would go for the win. Lockhart handed off to Norman, who went right and barely got into the endzone as the goalline pylon was knocked down as he was tackled. The celebration, and the disbelief, began. The Devils won 21-20.
Lockhart led the Devil offense in yards with 14 carries for 112 yards, plus four completions in five attempts for 35 yards. Hartfield carried 10 times for 76 yards. Norman carried nine times for 42 yards. Roberts caught two passes for 17 yards.
Stratford Academy will join fellow 7-A schools Aquinas, Tattnall Square, and First Presbyterian Day in the Class A Private backet. Lincoln County will be the only public school from 7-A making the Class A Public bracket.