Pats beat LCC for first playoff win since 2015

Published 11:11 am Friday, November 9, 2018

WHITESBURG — After two years of early playoff losses, the Lincoln County football team was determined that this was its year to get back on the winning track.

That hoped for return to the postseason win column did not get off to a great start Friday night. The Patriots’ arrival at Letcher County Central High School was delayed after their charter bus broke down a few miles from the school then the team’s offense struggled in the first half, but the team regained a bit of its swagger in the second half, scoring three unanswered touchdowns to defeat the host Cougars 22-7 in the Class 5A state playoff game.

“No bother,” Lincoln coach Spencer Crutchfield said of the bus breakdown and slow start. “They didn’t play well the first half. You know, I challenged them at halftime and they came out and definitely responded. You’ve got to give all the kids credit. They worked their butts off. They didn’t play perfect, but they played hard and that’s what I expect of them.”

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“That’s all about mental toughness,” he said of the second-half turn around. “That’s from putting in work in the summer and doing things that you’re supposed to do and doing things the right way.”

The last time Lincoln (7-4) won a playoff game was 2015 when most of the current seniors were freshmen. Senior running back Darius Napier was not on the roster that year to celebrate the victory at Harlan County, but he had a big presence in Friday’s playoff win, rushing for 158 yards on 16 carries and scoring all three of Lincoln’s second-half touchdowns to lead the team to victory. He scored on runs of 16, 6 and 9 yards.

Brawl breaks out

After Napier’s first touchdown just two minutes and 19 seconds into the third quarter, chaos ensued. Napier carried the ball on each play of the 65-yard, five-play drive, including first down runs of 18 and 10 yards to get the ball down to the Letcher County 31-yard line. An unsportsmanlike penalty on the Cougars set the Patriots up on the 16 and Napier scored on the following play, getting shoved as he crossed the goal line to give Lincoln a 9-7 lead.

And that ‘s when a brawl broke out between the two teams beyond the endzone.

Police officers and officials were eventually able to calm everyone down. Not long after that, coaches and officials realized one player, Zack Hazlett, was still down and had been hurt. Hazlett, who suffered a shoulder injury, said he wasn’t hurt seriously and that he tried to get back in the game.

The fight resulted in the ejection of two Letcher County players. Two personal foul penalties were assessed to the Cougars and the Patriots ended up kicking off from Letcher’s 15-yard line.

“That stuff that happened …. That’s not what we’re about and that’s not what we’re going to do,” Crutchfield said of the brawl. “That’s what I told our kids, ‘That that’s not what we’re going to be and I won’t stand for that.’”

“They responded and played hard between the whistles. And that’s what I told them, ‘We can fight them between the whistles – the right way.’ Definitely proud of them for keeping their heads and not throwing punches when teammates were getting picked on. Proud of them for having their brothers’ backs but also understanding what’s at stake.”

Lincoln scored on its first three possessions of the second half. The Patriots held the Cougars on downs to start their second drive of the half at their own 42. Eleven plays later, Napier capped off the drive with a 6-yard run with 23.8 seconds left in the third quarter.

Loren Melton booted the point after kick for a 16-7 Lincoln lead.

Letcher County (5-6) was marching into Lincoln territory when quarterback Nick Sergent mishandled the snap. Mykah Turpin recovered the fumble at the Lincoln 30, then a personal foul penalty against the Cougars moved the ball up to the 49. The Lincoln contingency celebrated on the first play of the drive as Napier zig-zagged his way around Letcher defenders to score a 51-yard touchdown. However, a block in the back penalty on Lincoln negated the score. Two plays later, though, Napier would get points on the board as he scored on a 9-yard run to make it 22-7 with 5:45 left in the game.

Lincoln took the early lead in the game when kicker Loren Melton scored a 30-yard field goal with 7:15 left in the second quarter. A Sawyer Carrier interception set up the field goal. The senior lineman knocked up a pass by Sergent, caught the deflection and ran the ball down to the Letcher 20. The drive stalled at the 13.

Letcher County answered the field goal with its only touchdown of the night. The Cougars started the drive on their own 32 and, 14 plays later, Hunter Campbell ran five yards to the goal line to put Letcher up 7-3 with 1:04 left in the first half.

“It feels great,” Crutchfield said of the win. “Happy for those guys, especially those seniors. They haven’t won a playoff game since they were freshmen. Proud of them and what they’ve put into the game. The amount of work they’ve put in this year and ….I can’t put into words how proud I am. I love ‘em.”

Once again, the opponent outoffensed Lincoln. The Cougars had 281 yards total offense, 216 yards rushing, while the Patriots finished at 212 total yards, 204 rushing. Lincoln quarterback Bryson Yaden was 2-for-7 for just eight yards and Sergent went 6-for-15 for Letcher County for 65 yards. Jonathan Sergent was Letcher’s leading rusher with 87 yards on 19 carries.

Lincoln will travel to Somerset Friday night in the second round of playoffs for a rematch with district rival Pulaski County. The Patriots had several opportunities to beat the Maroons in the Oct. 5 ballgame before coming up short, 27-21.

Crutchfield stressed that Lincoln’s goal each week is being 1-0.

“We’re 1-0 tonight. From here on out that’s what we’re going to try to do, 1-0. If we’re able to do that, that’s pretty good success,” said the Lincoln mentor.

Defensively, Hunter Combs led the Patriots with 18 tackles, 12 solos and six assists. Nick Harris had 13 tackles, four solos, and Mykah Turpin had 12 tackles, eight solos.Turpin had two sacks and Joron Beasley and Tyler Williams each had one sack

at Letcher Co. Central
Lincoln Co. 0 3 13 6 – 22
Letcher Co. 0 7 0 7 – 7

2nd Qtr
Lincoln: 7:15 – Loren Melton 30-yd field goal.
Letcher: 1:04 – Hunter Campbell 5-yd run (Zack Dollarhyde kick).

3rd Qtr
Lincoln: 9:41 – Darius Napier 16-yd run (Kick failed).
Lincoln: :23.8 – Napier 6-yd run (Melton kick).

4th Qtr
Lincoln: 5:45 – Napier 9-yd run (Kick failed).

Game Stats
Rushing 29-204 52-216
Passing 2-7-0 6-15-1
Yards 8 65
Total Off./Yds. 36-212 67-281
First Downs 9 17
Fumbles/Lost 0/0 4/1
Penalties 5/37 7/86

Individual Stats
Darius Napier: 16 carries, 158 yds, 3TDs.
Levi Daugherty: 4 carries, 18 yds.
Bryson Yaden: 5 carries, 18 yds.
Rodney Alcorn: 2 carries, 7 yds.
Dylan Burchfield: 2 carries, 3 yds.

Jonathan Sergent: 19 carries, 87 yds.
Zach Hensley: 6 carries, 52 yds.
Hunter Campbell: 13 carries, 47 yds, TD.
Nick Sergent: 11 carries, 21 yds.
Hayden Brashear: 1 carry, 5 yds.
Sam Little: 2 carries, 4 yds.

Bryson Yaden – 2-8-0, 8 yds.

Darius Napier – 2-8 yds.

Nick Sergent – 6-15-1, 65 yards.

Kalin Branham – 3-52 yds; Sam Little – 2-7; Jonathan Sergent – 1-6.