LINCOLNTON - For the first time in nearly a half-century, Lincoln County lost its Homecoming game. Warren County overcame a 14-0 deficit to win 28-21.
The Red Devils had won every LCHS Homecoming game since 1972. That stretch of 46 games is a Georgia state record.
The Devils were hit hard during the game with injuries, as the local medical staff made multiple trips onto the turf to check players. With many players playing both offense and defense, the heat contributed to cramps and other issues. Linemen and hands players were impacted.
Senior standout Dawayne Wright was lost on the first play from scrimmage. He took the pigskin on an end-around reverse and was tackled 39 yards later. On the takedown, Wright's ankle was broken in two places. He was transported by ambulance to Augusta, where he underwent surgery later than evening. Wright had been a leader on offense, defense, and special teams for the Devils.
Tevin Gartrell rushed for 11 yards for 1st-&-9 at the WC 9. The referees were busy Friday night, with a holding flag pushing the Devils back 10. For the game, each team was penalized nine times for 90 yards. Those totals would have been much higher had it not been for offsetting penalties on several occasions.
QB Monquavious Leverett gained 12 yards before Gartrell scored from the 7. Lane Tuten booted the PAT and a 7-0 Red Devil lead with 8:44 to go in the first. Gartrell would later leave the game with a severe hip pointer.
The two teams traded punts before the Screaming Devils attempted a punt from their 39. The Red Devils blocked the punt with Kolbi Ferguson returning the ball to the WC 16. Gartrell rushed for three before Ferguson rambled 10 yards for a first down at the 4. With 45 seconds left in the first, Ferguson scored from the 4. The PAT gave the Devils a 14-0 lead.
A 38-yard kickoff return and two long runs setup a 2-yard TD run by the Screamers with 10:02 left in the half. A two-point conversion run cut the lead to six, 14-8.
The Red Devils were unable to move the ball from deep in their territory and punted. The ball rolled out of bounds at the LC 40. A long run and a penalty setup a four-yard touchdown with 5:31 left in the half. The PAT run failed, leaving the game knotted at 14.
Leverett and Kevon Franklin each had 12-yard runs as the home team moved down the field. A 12-yard pass from Leverett to Ferguson earned a first down at the WC 29. Franklin gained 11 before Ferguson rushed in from the 11 to retake the lead. The kick was good and the Devils led 21-14 before the Homecoming Queen was crowned.
A 23-yard run and an interference penalty setup a 12-yard touchdown run by Warren County with two seconds left in the half. The PAT run gave the visitors a 22-21 halftime lead.
The Screaming Devils scored on a 40-yard pass to open the second half. With 9:26 left in the third, Warren County led 28-21.
A personal foul penalty killed the next LC drive. Warren put together a 12-play drive before the Red Devils stopped the drive at the LC 32.
A holding penalty led to another LC punt. Warren drove to the LC 25 before turning the pigskin over on downs.
The Red Devils picked up a big first down at the WC 27 after a 27-yard run by Tres Kelly with 15 more tacked on for a hit out-of-bounds. The drive ran out of steam after a personal foul flag. Lincoln gave the ball back on downs at the LC 24 with 2:51 left in the game.
The Screaming Devils picked up a first down and were able to run out the clock from there.
Total yards showed how close the game was: LC led 244-243. Warren was able to drive more effectively, converting on eight of 13 third down attempts compared to two of eight for Lincoln. Warren earned 14 first downs compared to seven for the Red Devils. LCHS had only one first down in the second half.
It was the perfect homecoming for Cherard Freeman, the former Red Devil and Georgia Southern star that is now the head coach at Warren County. He may be the only Red Devil to claim a gridiron win over his alma mater.
The Screaming Devils previously last defeated Lincoln County 35-7 in 1971. That victory was their seventh in a row over the Red Devils. The 28 points last Friday was the most by Warren County against LC since the 1971 game. The 43-game win streak in the rivalry is the longest in a rivalry series in Georgia history.
Tommy Guillebeau, a Lincolnton native and future GHSA Executive Director, was an assistant at Warren County when the streak began in 1972 with a 27-10 win in Lincolnton. That was Larry Campbell's first win as head coach after starting his inaugural season with two losses. Thirty-nine of Coach's 477 wins were against Warren County.
The Devils must quickly regroup as they host arch-rival Washington-Wilkes this Friday. The Tigers are smarting after a 28-20 upset loss to Hancock Central. Of course the records matter not, as this is The 378 War. With two subregion losses, the Devils cannot afford another failure.
The game will be broadcast live on WJBF 6.2. Kickoff will be shortly after 7:30.