“I thought tonight we fought like we were supposed to as a team,” Lincoln head coach Brad Wallace said. “I thought we went out and played as a team. I thought the guys went out there and executed. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but I thought that they gave me everything that they had throughout the game. It was exciting on the sideline. I thought our kids got after it and I thought we had a lot of emotion during the game.”
The first half was filled with plenty of mistakes. Etowah threw three interceptions and had a field goal attempt blocked, while Lincoln had two botched punts. The two teams played to a 7-7 draw by the conclusion of the half.
Etowah was the first to get on the scoreboard on a 41-yard pass from quarterback Kordell Rudolph to Austin Farmer on a slant route over the middle of the field. Jose Mondragon’s PAT was nearly blocked, but made it in to give the Blue Devils a 7-0 lead.
Lincoln answered on the ensuing drive with a 2-yard touchdown run by Jamario Howard. Seventh grader Nicholas Pope nailed the PAT to make it 7-7. Howard set the team up at the goal line with a 15-yard run. After a Jaunta’vius Johnson run up the gut failed to yield a touchdown, Howard succeeded on a run off the right tackle.
Zay Caldwell intercepted a Rudolph pass at the Lincoln 24-yard line for a big defensive stop, but the offense failed to capitalize on the turnover. On fourth down, the team elected to punt. However, the punt skidded on the turf twice before Caldwell was able to get it off, which made for a short punt.
Lincoln dug out of another hole with another interception, this one by Hunter Webster at the Lincoln 18-yard line.
After an unsuccessful offensive drive, the punt by Lincoln was deflected and Etowah recovered at the Lincoln 9-yard line. The Lincoln defense held strong, as even the field goal attempt on fourth down was blocked by Justin Knight.
After a Lincoln punt, the Lincoln defense made another stop with Caldwell recording another interception.
“Defensively, we were great,” Wallace said. “The penalties—you’re going to have that when you have an aggressive football team. I thought we got aggressive tonight and that made a little bit of a difference as far as tonight’s game. I think our defense came out and played all out. I thought our offense got out there. We sputtered at the beginning, but we picked it up and we found some things that worked and we ran the ball well. We’re going to keep working and working and we’re going to be a better football team. We’ve taken major steps since the first game of the season and we’ve gotten better.”
To start the second half, Lincoln was forced to punt and it proved to be costly. Marquavious Britton bobbled the return but recovered just in time to avoid a tackle and find an opening toward the Etowah sideline for a return all the way to the Lincoln 1-yard line. Running back Paul Ruiz punched it in for a 1-yard touchdown with the PAT no good to put the score at 13-7.
The Lincoln defense set up their offense with a Jalen Turner interception to give the Golden Bears the ball at the Etowah 31-yard line.
Chance Byrd connected with Hunter Webster for a 7-yard touchdown. The ensuing PAT featured a bad snap and the kick was blocked, making it a 13-13 tie.
Ruiz managed to score again for the Blue Devils from 2 yards out. The team ran a successful fake field goal with quarterback Caleb Ledbetter connecting with Andy Noles for two points to give Etowah a 21-13 lead.
Lincoln was driving at the goal line on their next offensive drive, when Etowah was called for pass interference. However, it didn’t result in an automatic first down; it merely moved the ball half the distance to the goal line. This proved crucial. Jaunta’vius Johnson bullied Etowah ahead for a 4-yard gain. On fourth-and-goal, the team called for another Johnson run up the gut, but Johnson was stopped short at the 2-yard line.
Ruiz nearly had a 98-yard touchdown near the start of the fourth quarter, but one of his teammates had an unnecessary block in the back on Caldwell. Caldwell limped off the field following the play. The penalty brought the ball all the way back to the Etowah 2-yard line. Nevertheless, Etowah found a way to score with Rudolph connecting with Jordon Powell to an 85-yard touchdown reception. The PAT was good to give Etowah a 28-13 lead.
It only took Lincoln three plays to answer. Byrd completed a 43-yard pass to Webster. He then ran for no gain, before finding Webster again for a 25-yard touchdown reception. Byrd found Dontaevius Johnson at the back of the end zone for the two-point conversion to cut the lead to 28-21.
Etowah worked the clock in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, but Etowah was forced to punt with roughly one minute of play remaining. On the punt, Lincoln fumbled the ball and Etowah recovered to seal the win.
“I thought we battled with a team that was a tough team and that was good for us to get seasoned to,” Wallace said. “It’s like death row going to the end we’ve got good football teams next week all the way until the end of the season. It doesn’t get any easier, but that was a good football team. That helped us get ready for these next few weeks. If we can get better and better as we go, maybe we can peak at the right time and get it going at the end.”