Pulaski plays spoiler in Lincoln’s homecoming

Published 1:13 pm Thursday, October 12, 2017

STANFORD — Not only was Friday the Class 5A District 7 opener for Lincoln County, it was also homecoming.

But there would be no homecoming or district victory to celebrate postgame as the Pulaski County Maroons rolled into Death Valley Stadium and played the role of spoiler, defeating the Patriots 41-20.

Friday’s district clash was proof of just how big a difference a turnover can make in a game. 

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The Patriots (3-4, 0-1 district) were marching to the end zone anticipating growing their lead to 14-7 late in the second quarter when quarterback Bryson Yaden fumbled the ball and the Maroons’ Danny Butt scooped up the ball and took it 96 yards to the house. 

The scoop-and-score would set off a run of three straight touchdowns for the visitors. Lincoln turned the ball over on downs inside the Pulaski 17 with under a minute to go in the half and Wiley Cain showed off the Maroons’ air attack, connecting on 4 of 6 passes for 60 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown pass to Jake Sloan for a 21-7 halftime lead. Then, Lincoln turned the ball over again on downs early in the third quarter and, 11 plays later, Cain hit Matt Hendricks for an 11-yard score and a 28-7 cushion.

“We said the game was going to be decided on turnovers,” Lincoln coach Travis Leffew said. “It (fumble) was definitely a momentum swinger. We turned it over on downs a couple times inside of our red zone, but the fumble there that was a big dagger. But you’ve got to keep fighting back. We’ve got to be able to understand that that stuff happens and we’ve got to go at it and attack. We can’t dwell on it. We’ve got to go on and play the next play.”

Lincoln held the early lead, with Darius Napier scoring the first of his three touchdowns in the game on a 17-yard run and Emma Kaiser adding the point after kick for a 7-0 edge in the first quarter. 

Napier and Tra Carey would struggle against the Pulaski defense with both backs held under 100 yards. Napier had 77 yards on 14 carries and Carey had 78 yards on 16 carries.

“There’s a little bit of not running down hill, more trying to read and running laterally,” Leffew said. “Our big boys and running backs are better when they run down hill with their shoulders down, so we’ve got to focus on that and not try to run laterally and hit gaps. We need to go at them full speed.”

Nate Kean scored both of Pulaski’s rushing touchdowns in the game, tying the game at 7-all with a 1-yard run early in the second quarter then punching in the final score with 1:59 left in the game on a 3-yard run.

Napier finally interrupted the Maroon scoring run with 2:57 left in the third quarter, capping off an eight-play, 60-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown to make it 28-13.

Lincoln got no closer.

Kolton Adams intercepted a Yaden pass early in the fourth quarter to set up Pulaski’s next score. Two plays later, Cain, who had an impressive 27-for-44 passing night for 292 yards and three touchdowns, hit Grant Oakes for his third TD pass, a 25-yard completion.

Napier ran in his final touchdown of the game with 7:25 on the clock, scoring from 8-yards out. 

Leffew says Lincoln has no time to dwell on the loss, with a tough Southwestern squad coming to Death Valley next week.

“We’ve got to regroup,” he said. “Regroup and focus on our next game. It’s not going to get any easier. We’ll learn from this film and put it behind us because we’ve got a good Southwestern team coming here.”