Class 5A Football playoffs: Lincoln knocked out by North Laurel

Published 2:51 pm Thursday, November 9, 2017

LONDON — There would be no late-season magic for Lincoln County Friday night in the football playoffs.

Senior running backs Jose Rodriguez and Matt Sizemore combined for 218 yards rushing and three touchdowns and quarterback Cole McWhorter added 52 yards and two TDs to lead North Laurel to a 43-6 win over the visiting Patriots in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs.

North Laurel (9-2) never trailed in the game, with Rodriguez knocking Lincoln back on its heels on the second play of the game by bursting through the Patriot defense and going 54 yards to the end zone.

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And the Jaguars never looked back, rolling off 43 straight points before the Patriots finally broke on the scoreboard. 

“It just did not start out our way,” Lincoln coach Travis Leffew said. “A very physical football team. A very good football team. I see them playing a little while in the playoffs. They have a great coaching staff that does great things with their guys. They play physical and that is one thing that wins ballgames. That’s something we’ve got to figure out how to be.”

Darius Napier, who sat out last week’s game with an injury, tallied for Lincoln to avert the shutout, scoring a 9-yard touchdown with 3:30 left in the game.

Lincoln (3-8) never broke inside the North Laurel 36 until its final possession of the game, which culminated in Napier’s touchdown. The Jags held the Pats to just 110 yards total offense, 50 yards rushing. Napier got just 24 yards on nine carries, Tra Carey, who left last week’s game with an injury, managed just one yard on nine carries and quarterback Bryson Yaden was held to minus yardage (-4) on six carries. Christian Vergara, a lineman, was called on to run the ball late in the game and he finished as the leading rusher with 29 yards on four carries. Yaden was 6-for-17 passing for 60 yards. He threw two interceptions.

“They are a good defensive team,” Leffew said of North Laurel. “The most points they’ve had scored on them this year is 23, which was by Harlan County. We struggled up front and that’s where the ballgames are won at. We’ve got to figure out how to become physical up there, play with low pad level and come off the ball.”

The Jaguar lead was at 9-0 at the end of the first quarter, with Matt Brooks booting a 32-yard field goal after North’s drive stalled at the Lincoln 16.

The margin was 23-0 at the half. Rodriguez followed his opening TD run with another substantial scoring run in the second quarter, taking the ball in from 47 yards out for a 16-0 lead. A Sizemore interception set up the final score of the first half. Sizemore’s pick off Yaden set the Jags up at their own 30, and eight plays later McWhorter capped off the drive with an 11-yard touchdown run.

Lincoln faced a running clock before the end of the third quarter. Sizemore scored an 8-yard touchdown early in the period then, with 1:21 left in the third, McWhorter scored from 6 yards out to invoke the running clock.

Konnor Robinson capped off North Laurel’s scoring with 10:24 to play on a 21-yard touchdown run.

“We got behind early tonight and that hurt us, but the biggest thing is, is that it’s always going to come down to physical,” Leffew said. “They had the physicality tonight. We were hitting them at the line of scrimmage, but they were wanting it a little bit more with their tackle and stuff. We’ve got to just come tackle them and not let them run over us and just play full speed.”

Friday night’s loss puts an end to a season that saw so many opportunities slip away, opportunities where Lincoln could have notched more “W’s.”

“Just listening to other coaches talk about your team and stuff. Coach (Chris) Larkey talking about how your team could very easily be 7-3. Right there. We’ve just got to jump that hump,” said Leffew. “We’re right there battling. We’re stuck behind that wall and we’ve got to figure out how to get over it. It’s going to take depth. It’s going to take those wins to believe. When you start winning, you start believing. I really feel that our program is on the right path with our youth football program, our middle school program. It’s going in the right direction. It’s just going to take time.”

For now, Leffew says it’s time for a football break – but only briefly.

“We’ll give the guys a couple weeks off and we’ll hit it up right after that and we’ll go after it again,” he said.