Improvement on offense leads to more wins
Published 9:15 am Thursday, October 12, 2023
By MIKE MARSEE
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The Lincoln County Patriots are discovering who they are on offense, and they are who they thought they were.
They may not have been that team at the beginning of the season, but their offense has improved exponentially since they were held to six points on opening night.
Players have grown into their roles, and coach Josh Jaggers said they have learned what they can do well.
“We’re just finding our identity,” Jaggers said. “It was just kind of sorting out things, and we ended up going back to who we were last year. We’re going to run the football, we’re going to take shots when we can, we’re going to take what’s there.”
Lincoln (4-3) has been highly productive on offense in its wins this season, including its 40-33 victory over Wayne County in its last game on Sept. 29. The Patriots have averaged 42.8 points and 387 yards in those victories.
“We’ve just really gotten better as a team,” quarterback Sawyer Horton said. “Sometimes we’ll play bad, but when we play good we score a lot.”
Jaggers said the Patriots remain a run-first team, but they have displayed diversity on offense that increased with the return of senior wide receiver Connor Davis, who made his season debut Friday after suffering a broken leg in July.
“He is an awesome wide receiver, and it helps us a lot with our passing game,” running back Elan Lane said.
Davis, who had an 8-yard touchdown catch in the win over Wayne, said he could hardly wait to get back on the field.
“It’s such an electrifying moment, walking out here. Running out and seeing all the fans, lining up for the kickoff return on the first play of the game, it just felt amazing,” he said.
Jaggers said he’s thrilled to have Davis, who also plays a key role on defense in the secondary, back on the field.
“He’s a natural game-breaking, difference-making athlete,” Jaggers said.
Meanwhile, Davis’ teammates have had some amazing offensive performances in his absence.
Horton, who threw three touchdown passes and ran for another TD against Wayne, became Lincoln’s career passing yardage leader earlier this season, breaking the record previously held by current assistant coach Bryson Yaden. His record currently stands at 4,120 yards.
“He’s seeing the field better and trusting our wide receivers more to throw the ball,” Lane said.
Lane, who had two rushing touchdowns Friday, became the first Lincoln player to have at least 100 rushing yards and 100 receiving yards when he went for 101 and 104 in a Sept. 15 win over Russell County.
“We’ve been playing together forever, so I know who can do what out there on the field, and I know who to get the ball to,” Horton said.
Another key figure in the Patriots’ offense is Mark Peach, who joined Jaggers’ staff as offensive coordinator after spending the past two seasons as head coach at Danville.
Peach was the head coach when Jaggers played at Campbellsville University, and Jaggers said he was glad to be able to add someone from his trusted circle of coaches to his staff.
“I said, ‘Let me try to find somebody that’s in my wheelhouse,” Jaggers said.
Lincoln had 176 rushing yards and 201 passing yards against Wayne, and the Patriots are averaging 179 yards on the ground and 159 in the air in the six games since Casey County held them to 171 yards in a 10-6 loss in their season opener.
“We did a lot of things better tonight and throughout the season that’ll help us,” Horton said.
Lincoln went 2-9 last year in Jaggers’ first season, but he said he knew the Patriots were capable of better things this season. They are 2-0 in District 4A-7 with district games remaining Oct. 13 at Boyle County and Oct. 20 against Taylor County before their regular-season finale Oct. 27 at Mercer County.
“I knew we had a good team. We’ve just had to get healthy and get these guys to believe,” he said. “We keep turning pages, which is different from last year, so I’m really proud of them.”