Pats fall to Pulaski in Class 5A second round

Published 11:42 am Tuesday, November 20, 2018

SOMERSET — As his team made its way to the locker room Friday after its second-round playoff defeat, first-year Lincoln County coach Spencer Crutchfield choked back tears as he tried to describe the Patriots’ 35-19 loss to host Pulaski County on a bitterly cold night.

“I told the kids, ‘Sometimes you put in the work and a …. you pour …. you pour your heart and soul into something and sometimes it doesn’t turn out the way you wanted it to,’” he said. “We made some plays. They just ended up making a couple more and, you know, that’s what it comes down to.”

Despite the horrible field conditions Friday night, scoring did not seem to be a problem for either team early in the District 7 rematch, with both Lincoln and Pulaski scoring three touchdowns in the first 12 minutes of the game.

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It took Lincoln just 20 seconds to get on the scoreboard. Darius Napier initially bobbled the football on the opening kickoff but he grabbed the ball back up and ran 79 yards up the middle of the quagmire that was the Maroon football field for a 6-0 Patriot lead.

“Couldn’t have scripted a better start,” Crutchfield said of Napier’s opening kickoff TD. “That was definitely the way we wanted to start.”

The lead lasted just over a minute, with Pulaski quarterback Wiley Cain hitting Jake Sloan for a 24-yard touchdown pass with 10:14 left in the first. Jaxson McAlpin booted the point after kick to put the Maroons up 7-6. Then, with 5:50 on the clock, Cain connected with Grant Oakes for a 16-yard touchdown pass to push the Pulaski lead to 13-6.

The Patriots answered the Cain-Oakes connection with another score off a Maroon kickoff. Nick Harris fielded this kickoff by McAlpin and he went 64 yards down the Pulaski sideline for the touchdown. Loren Melton added the point after kick to deadlock the game at 13-all with 5:30 left in the first period.

On Pulaski’s next possession, Sloan took a Cain pass 61 yards to the goal line only to have the score nullified by a holding penalty. A first-down run by Cain and a 24-yard first-down pass to Slone helped move the ball down to the Lincoln 21 and Cain capped off the 61-yard, 6-play drive with a 21-yard TD pass to Tristan Cox to make it a 20-19 ballgame with 3:17 remaining in the first.

Thanks to a 16-yard first-down pass from Bryson Yaden to Zack Hazlett and a 44-yard first-down run by Napier, the Patriots were threatening to score again as the clock ticked under two minutes. Napier, who led Lincoln with 144 yards on 19 carries, got the Patriots to the Maroons’ 6-yard line then, two plays later, Levi Daugherty pushed the ball in from the one to get Lincoln within 20-19 with 1:18 left in the first.

That was as close as the Patriots would get, as the Maroon defense would not allow another score by the visitors and the offense tacked on two more touchdowns to earn the win.

The Maroons (10-2) would score on each of its first four possessions. Pulaski would take over at its own 31 late in the first quarter. Seven plays later, and just 10 seconds into the second quarter, the drive culminated in a 7-yard touchdown run by Cox. Drew Polston added the two-point conversion run to extend the Maroon lead to 28-19.

An Ian Ware interception midway through the third quarter set up the final PC score. The Patriots had moved the ball down to the Pulaski 28 on a drive that started at their own 23. Yaden, who finished 4-for-7 for 68 yards, put up a pass on 4th-and-10 and Ware was there for the pick. With 3:50 left in the third, Oakes pulled in a Cain pass and took it 21 yards to the endzone for the 35-19 final.

Lincoln was intercepted four times in the loss. Yaden was picked three times and Napier, who was 1-for-2 passing, was picked once. Zack Hazlett was Lincoln’s leading receiver with 34 yards on two receptions.

Oakes was Cain’s leading receiver on the night, with five receptions for 124 yards and two TDs. Ware had nine catches for 83 yards.

The Maroons finished with 480 yards offense, with 343 yards through the air. Cain completed 27 of 36 passes for four touchdowns. He had one pass intercepted, with Rafe Shelton getting the pick. As a testament to the offensive line Cain has in front of him, the senior quarterback had the only clean jersey on the field at game’s end Friday.

“They are a well-coached team and the O-line keeps him clean and he’s able to execute some throws and do some things,” Crutchfield said.

Pulaski held Lincoln to just 286 yards total offense in the season-ender, with 210 rushing yards on 35 carries.

Pulaski improved to 10-2 with the win and will host Southwestern Friday night for the regional championship.

“They’re an extremely good football team. They haven’t reeled off nine (wins) in a row for no reason,” said Crutchfield. “They were just able to make a few more plays than we were tonight.”

Lincoln ends the season at 7-5, its first winning season since 2007. The Patriots finished 11-3 that year and were a state semi-finalist, bowing to eventual state champion Ft. Thomas Highlands.

However, having a winning season does not lessen the hurt of Friday’s loss.

“It definitely hurts,” Crutchfield said. “But it’s part of growing up. It’s part of becoming a man. That’s what I want those kids to understand. Even though it didn’t turn out like they wanted, you still have to get up in the morning and go back to work. Definitely proud of these guys and the amount of effort they’ve put in. They trusted in me as a first-year coach and they had my back.”

Crutchfield said he is especially proud of his nine seniors.

“They went out the way I want anybody to go out, leaving it all on the field,” he said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better effort from any of those guys. I challenged them at halftime. They got after it again. We just came up short on the sticks. That happens. I hate it for those guys but it happens.”

Defensively, Rafe Shelton, Dylan Burchfield and Hunter Combs led the Patriots with nine tackles each. Shelton had five solos and four assists, Burchfield had four solos and five assists and Combs had three solos with six assists.

at Pulaski Co.
Lincoln 19 0 0 0 – 19
Pulaski 20 8 7 0 – 35

1st Qtr
Lincoln: 11:40 – Darius Napier 79-yd kickoff return (Kick failed).
Pulaski: 10:14 – Jake Sloan 24-yd pass from Wiley Cain (Jaxson McAlpin kick).
Pulaski: 5:50 – Grant Oakes 16-yd pass from Cain (Pass failed).
Lincoln: 5:30 – Nick Harris 64-yd kickoff return (Loren Melton kick).
Pulaski: 3:17 – Tristan Cox 21-yd pass from Cain (McAlpin kick).
Lincoln: 1:18 – Levi Daugherty 1-yd run (Pass failed).

2nd Qtr
Pulaski: 11:50 – Cox 7-yd run (Drew Polston run).

3rd Qtr
Pulaski: 3:50 – Oakes 21-yd pass from Cain (McAlpin kick).

Game Stats
Rushing 35-210 21-137
Passing 5-9-4 27-36-1
Yards 76 343
Total Off./Yds.44-286 57-480
First Downs 12 15
Fumbles/Lost 3/0 0/0
Penalties 6/43 5/50

Individual Stats
Darius Napier: 19 carries, 144 yds.
Levi Daugherty: 8 carries, 34 yds, TD.
Bryson Yaden: 5 carries, 23 yds.
Nick Harris: 2 carries, 8 yds.
Rodney Alcorn: 1 carry, 1 yd.

Tristan Cox: 9 carries, 79 yds, TD.
Trey Price: 7 carries, 49 yds.
Wiley Cain: 2 carries, 10 yds.
Evan Mercer: 1 carry, 2 yds.
Ian Ware: 2 carries, (-3) yds.

Bryson Yaden – 4-7-3, 68 yds; Darius Napier – 1-2-1, 8 yds.
Zack Hazlett – 2-34 yds; Darius Napier – 1-22; Levi Daugherty – 1-12; Bryson Yaden – 1-8.

Wiley Cain – 27-36-1, 343 yds, 4 TDs.
Grant Oakes – 5-124 yards, 2TDs; Ian Ware – 9-83; Jake Sloan – 5-67, TD; Tristan Cox – 6-39, TD; Ethan Mills – 1-19; Evan Mercer – 1-11, TD.