Football: Patriots fall short in district opener

Published 1:07 pm Friday, October 12, 2018

SOMERSET — Almost, but not quite.

That was the story Friday night at Pulaski County as the Lincoln County football team fell short in a comeback effort against the host Maroons, falling 27-21 in the Class 5A, District 7 opener for both teams.

Lincoln struggled for most of the first half, falling behind 27-7, but a rally by the Patriot offense and a crisper execution on defense the second half almost resulted in a Lincoln win.

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The Patriots had pulled within 27-21 midway through the third quarter and threatened to overtake the Maroons three times in the fourth quarter before time ran out on them.

“We dug ourselves a hole early. That’s what we did,” Lincoln coach Spencer Crutchfield said. “You can’t turn the ball over on a kickoff. You can’t do those things and expect to beat a good team. That’s what I’ve been saying all year. We got away with it earlier. Nothing against those teams, but they were not great teams.”

“The kids have nothing to hang their heads about. They played hard. We just didn’t play crisp and execute like we should.”

Darius Napier, who led the Lincoln ground game with 96 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, punched in his TD with 2:15 left in the first half to trim Pulaski’s lead to 27-13 at the half. Then, with 6:24 left in the third quarter, Sawyer Carrier intercepted Maroon quarterback Wiley Cain and returned the ball 35 years to the endzone to make it a 27-21 ballgame.

The Patriots (5-2, 0-1 district) kept knocking on the door the rest of the way.

Lincoln had moved the ball down to the Pulaski 24-yard line before the Maroons’ defense slammed the door on 4th-and-1, taking over on downs with 6:11 remaining. With about three minutes to go and the ball at the Pulaski 33, Lincoln went for the first down on 4th-and-23 only to have an offensive pass interference call turn the ball over to Pulaski.

Then, with under two minutes to play, Patriot quarterback Bryson Yaden tried to move the ball deep into Maroon territory once again. Yaden, who was 7-for-18 for 53 yards, had completed two first-down passes to Napier and run seven yards for another first down when he released his final throw of the game. Unfortunately, it was Konner Hargis of Pulaski on the receiving end and he returned the interception to the Maroon 42. With 1:20 all that remained, Pulaski took a knee on two snaps to run out the clock.

The clock may have run out on the Patriots’ rally effort, but Crutchfield said the fight never did.

“That’s the resolve of these kids and what I love about them,” he said. “I can push them. I can get on them. I can get on their tail, And they always respond. When I challenge them, they respond. I challenged them tonight and they responded. We just had dug too big a hole for ourselves.”

Stopping Pulaski’s passing game was tough for the Lincoln defense as senior quarterback Wiley Cain completed 23 of 38 pass attempts for 229 yards and two touchdowns. Cain capped off the game’s opening possession with a TD pass, hitting Hargis for a five-yard scoring pass three minutes into the game.

Cain and Tristan Cox, who rushed for 55 yards and two scores on 12 attempts for Pulaski, traded touchdowns during the first half of play.

The first Cox score came less than a minute after the opening touchdown. The Maroons’ offense got little break after the opening drive, with the Patriots’ Zack Hazlett fumbling the ensuing kickoff and Pulaski (5-2, 1-0) taking over at the Lincoln 27. Three plays later, Cox ran the ball in from the 4 to make it 14-0.

Lincoln broke onto the scoreboard with 3:30 to go in the first. After a holding penalty, the Patriots were facing 4th-and-23 at the Maroon 23 when Yaden threw to Nick Harris in the endzone. The Loren Melton kick made it 14-7.

Then Cain was back at it again, hitting Jacob Shepherd for a 32-yard score to extend Pulaski’s lead to 21-7 with 1:26 left in the first quarter. The Maroons took over on downs at the Lincoln 49 with 9:30 to play in the second quarter. Eight plays later, Cox capped off the run with an 8-yard push for PC’s biggest lead of the game, 27-7.

“Definitely proud of these guys even though it didn’t turn out like it should,” said Crutchfield. “We have to learn from this and build on this.”
Lincoln had a tough test at Pulaski and another tough test lies ahead as the Patriots travel back to Somerset Friday to take on undefeated Southwestern.

“I’m going to challenge them again this week because we’ve got another big test this week at Southwestern, who’s probably favored in the district,” Crutchfield said. “We’re almost there. You’ve got to close that gap. We fought and I can never doubt their fight. We’re right there. We just have to keep getting better.”

And how will the Patriots respond to the challenge?

“A lot is going to be said … How are they going to respond to this? Are they going to come in with a positive attitude and ready to go to work or are they going to come in and tuck tail, ready to quit?” Crutchfield said. “That’s on them. The way they are built I expect them to come in ready to work.”

Defensively, Napier led the Patriots with nine tackles, eight solos and one assist. Hunter Combs had seven tackles, four solos, and Dylan Burchfield had six solo tackles. Carrier, Levi Daugherty and Harris had five tackles each. Carrier had five solos, Daugherty, four and Harris, three.

at Pulaski Co.
Lincoln 7 7 7 0 – 21
Pulaski 21 6 0 0 – 27

1st Qtr
Pulaski: 9:05 – Konner Hargis 5-yard pass from Wiley Cain (Jaxson McAlpin kick).
Pulaski: 8:19 – Tristan Cox 4-yard run (McAlpin kick).
Lincoln: 3:30 – Nick Harris 23-yard pass from Bryson Yaden (Loren Melton kick).
Pulaski: 1:26 – Jacob Shepherd 32-yard pass from Cain (McAlpin kick).

2nd Qtr
Pulaski: 6:57 – Cox 8-yard run (Kick failed).
Lincoln: 2:15 – Darius Napier 1-yard run (Melton kick).

3rd Qtr
Lincoln: 6:24 – Sawyer Carrier 35-yard interception return (Melton kick).

Game Stats
Rushing 36-153 28-119
Passing 7-18-1 24-39-1
Yards 53 251
Total Off./Yds. 54-206 67-370
First Downs 11 20
Fumbles/Lost 4/1 2/1
Penalties 8/95 15/116

Individual Stats
Darius Napier: 14 carries, 96 yards, TD.
Bryson Yaden: 14 carries, 40 yards.
Dylan Burchfield: 6 carries, 17 yards.
Levi Daugherty: 2 carries, 0 yards.

Tristan Cox: 12 carries, 55 yards.
Wiley Cain: 6 carries, 26 yards.
Ian Ware: 5 carries, 25 yards.
Trey Price: 5 carries, 13 yards.

Bryson Yaden – 7-18-1, 53 yards, TD.
Nick Harris – 2-33 yards, TD; Zack Hazlett – 2-19; Kristian Silverthorn – 4-10; Sawyer Carrier – 1-0.

Wiley Cain – 23-38-1, 229 yards, 2 TDs; Drew Polton – 1-1-0, 22 yards.
Jacob Shepherd – 4-85 yards, TD; Ian Ware – 9-72; Jake Sloan – 5-58; Wiley Cain – 1-22; Konner Hargis – 2-8, TD; Tristan Cox – 2-4; Ethan Casada – 1-2.