Lincoln’s best day of offense not enough to beat Pulaski

SOMERSET — The Lincoln County offense had its best performance to date Friday night, with Tra Carey rushing for a season-high 263 yards and Tanner McAninch getting his second-best high of 106 yards as the Patriots racked up a season-high 437 yards offense.
Yet, the solid effort didn’t produce the win Lincoln was looking for in its district opener at Pulaski County, as the Maroons also put forth their best offensive effort of the season in a 60-31 win over the visiting Patriots.
“It was a great game,” Lincoln coach Travis Leffew said. “Offensively, we were able to move the ball up and down the field. Tra Carey is coming into his own and other teams are recognizing that and seeing that and really focused on him. I felt like we did a pretty good job defensively of trying to maintain Jake Johnson, the best receiver in the state. He still made his plays, but I thought we did a good job. We just faced a very good football team tonight.”
Johnson was one of six different players reaching the end zone as Pulaski improved to 6-1 overall, 1-0 in District 7. Johnson had 124 receiving yards off seven catches, with two touchdown passes from quarterback Wiley Cain. Cain went 12-for-20 passing for 244 yards and four touchdowns. Ethan Casada pulled in Cain’s first TD pass. Jake Sloan had three receptions for 106 yards, including a 70-yard TD pass from Cain and a 21-yard strike from back-up QB Matt Hendricks. The Maroons had 548 yards total offense, with Cole Gates leading the ground game with 146 rushing yards and a touchdown. Jacob New ran the ball four times for 74 yards and a score and Rickey Maxey made the most of his two carries in the game, by scoring on each one.
Leffew said that Pulaski’s depth gave the Maroons, the 2014 Class 5A state champion and 2015 runner-up, a decided advantage over the Patriots.
“They are a contender for a state title and the big thing that they have is a lot of depth. They have older guys to filter in and sub in and play on defense. I think they’ve got four guys that go both ways. That’s one thing in 5A football that we have to create, is that depth,” Leffew said. “Our effort was there tonight. But at one point I look on the field and we’re flopping 11 offensive players to 11 defensive players, so it comes down to a lot of depth and getting the younger guys built up and ready to play at the varsity level. I truly believe that their having players that are able to come out and play still feeling fresh killed us tonight. They always prevail in the second half and that comes off of their depth.”
Lincoln (1-6, 0-1) never led in the ballgame, giving up a touchdown to Pulaski after fumbling away the opening kickoff. But the Patriots did challenge the Maroons to a close contest in the first half, going into the break within 27-17.
“Big plays killed us tonight, starting right off the bat with the turnover off the opening kickoff return. It should have been 20-20 when we went into the half,” Leffew said. “Take away the seven off the turnover, and we missed a field goal, too, and it would have been 20-20. So we were right there in the ballgame with a very, very good Pulaski County football team.”
Konner Hargis recovered the fumble on the opening kickoff to give the Maroons a short field at the Patriot 39. Three plays later, Cain hit Casada for a 27-yard touchdown pass. 
Lincoln got inside the Pulaski 15 on its first possession before the drive stalled. Emma Kaiser came on to attempt a 28-yard field goal, and the kick appeared good, but officials signaled a miss. 
The Maroons’ second scoring drive was their longest of the game, with Cain capping off the 51-yard, 8-play drive with an 11-yard TD pass to Johnson. 
Pulaski would score on nine of its 11 possessions in the game, with minimal touches on the ball as running backs found gaps in the Lincoln defense to turn short gains into big yardage.
“We come up short again down here versus a spread offensive team that had some big plays on us. I don’t think that at any point they drove it down the field consistently,” Leffew said. “A lot of the running plays were created from the pressure that we were bringing. We were taking chances with the pressure we were bringing up, to try to get in the quarterback’s face and they were able to hit the gaps and go. Great job by them on the win tonight and I congratulate my guys for their effort.”
Lincoln made it a 13-10 game before the end of the first quarter, with McAninch taking the handoff from Noah Horton and cutting to the left sideline and going 27 yards to the goal line with just seconds left on the clock.
Horton, a senior, took several snaps for the Patriots as Leffew and his staff tweaked the offense.
“We’ve had to find ways to move around Tanner from the quarterback position,” said Leffew. “Tra does all the pounding and Tanner is kind of the finesse runner that makes teams have to play on the edge so it opens up the middle for Tra. We’ve seen that Noah is able to run back there and hand the ball off and throw it a little bit so it was a great change for our offense.”
 The Patriots would get no closer than 13-10. 
Horton was intercepted on Lincoln’s next possession then the following drive stalled at the Pulaski 18 and a 35-yard field goal attempt by Trey Cummins was just wide left. 
In the meantime, New put up a 35-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter then Cain connected with Sloan for a 70-yard scoring pass to extend the Pulaski lead to 27-10 with just 43.9 seconds left in the half.
Lincoln would make the most of the final few seconds of the first half, with a 60-yard, 5-play drive culminating in a 14-yard touchdown pass from McAninch to Sawyer Carrier to make it 27-17 at the break.
“We felt good at the half, but we couldn’t make things happen like we wanted in the second half,” Leffew said. “Our guys gave a great effort and we’re progressing each week. We’re doing some things that I see improvement on. There is some big play stuff that we’ve got to stop letting hurt us.”
Maxey punched in two 3-yard touchdowns in the third quarter to cushion the Maroon lead to 41-17.
Thirty-three points were put up in the fourth quarter, with Pulaski showing a 19-14 edge. Carey scored Lincoln’s two touchdowns in the frame on runs of 29 yards and 4 yards. For Pulaski, Johnson scored on a 56-yard pass from Cain, Hendricks hit Sloan for a 21-yard TD pass and Gates scored the final touchdown of the game on a 29-yard run.

at Pulaski Co.
1 2 3 4 Final
Lincoln Co. 10 7 0 14 – 31
Pulaski Co. 13 14 14 19 – 60

1st Quarter
Pulaski: 10:47 ­– Ethan Casada 36-yard pass from Wiley Cain (Jaxson McAlpin kick).
Lincoln: 5:11 – Emma Kaiser 28-yard field goal
Pulaski: 2:41 – Jake Johnson 11-yard pass from Cain (kick failed)
Lincoln: :31.8 – Tanner McAninch 27-yard run (Kaiser kick).
2nd Quarter
Pulaski: 10:33 – Jacob New 35-yard run (kick blocked).
Pulaski: :43.9 – Jake Sloan 70-yard pass from Cain (New run).
Lincoln: :00.2 – Sawyer Carrier 14-yard pass from McAninch (Kaiser kick).
3rd Quarter
Pulaski: 3:11 – Rickey Maxey 3-yard run (McAlpin kick).
Pulaski: 1:45 – Maxey 3-yard run (McAlpin kick).
4th Quarter
Lincoln: 10:39 – Tra Carey 29-yard run (Kaiser kick).
Pulaski: 9:46 – Johnson 56-yard pass from Cain (kick failed).
Pulaski: 6:18 – Sloan 20-yard pass from Matt Hendricks (kick blocked).
Lincoln: 3:06 – Carey 4-yard run (Kaiser kick).
Pulaski: 1:34 – Cole Gates 29-yard run (McAlpin kick).

Game Stats
LC PC
First Downs 19 11
Rushing Plays 52 27 yards gained 369 283
Pass Attempts 12 21 completions 5 13 yards 68 265 touchdowns 1 5
interceptions 1 1
Total Plays 64 48 total offense 437 548
Fumbles/lost 4/3 0/0
Penalties/yards 3/20 6/66

Individual Statistics
Rushing
Lincoln
Tra Carey: 29carries, 263 yards, 2TDs.
Tanner McAninch: 19 carries, 106 yards, TD.
Ethan Carman: 1 carry, 5 yards.
Carlos Nunez: 1 carry, 1 yard.
Lane Slone: 1 carry, 0 yards.
Team: 1 carry, (-6) yards.
Pulaski
Cole Gates: 11 carries, 146 yards, TD.
Jacob New: 4 carries, 74 yards, TD.
Jaylon Conwell: 3 carries, 33 yards.
Matt Hendricks: 1 carry, 16 yards.
Rickey Maxey: 2 carries, 6 yards, 2TDs.
Jake Johnson: 2 carries, 4 yards.
Wiley Cain: 4 carries, 4 yards.

Passing/Receiving
Lincoln
Passing: Tanner McAninch, 4-9-0, 59 yards; Noah Horton, 1-3-1, 9 yards.
Receiving: Tra Carey, 2-38 yards; Sawyer Carrier, 1-14, TD; Josh Salyers, 1-9; Carlos Nunez, 1-7.
Pulaski
Passing: Wiley Cain, 12-20-1, 244 yards, 4TDs; Matt Hendricks, 1-1-0, 21 yards, TD.
Receiving: Jake Johnson, 7-124 yards, 2TDs; Jake Sloan, 3-106, 2TDs; Ethan Casada, 2-35, TD; Jaylon Conwell, 1-0.