Lincoln took advantage of early Rapid City Stevens miscues for a convincing 50-6 win on Saturday at O’Harra Stadium.
In the last two season openers, the Patriots have outscored the Raiders 114-6.
On their second possession of the game, the Raiders snapped the ball well over punter John Johnson’s head and it rolled down to the Stevens’ 10-yard line. Johnson tried to pick the ball up, but kicked it back to the 2-yard line before falling on it.
Lincoln’s Caden Quintanilla easily took it in from 2 yards out for the first score. On the Raiders’ next three-and-out, Johnson punted the ball straight up in the air for just a 14-yard kick and Lincoln took over on the Stevens’ 35-yard line. Three plays later, Patriots quarterback Connor Burchill hit receiver Trevor Naasz on an easy 39-yard touchdown pass.
The Patriots scored 15 quick points off of their first four offensive plays.
“Anytime you can come away with points like that, you’ll take them,” Lincoln coach Aaron Beavers said.
Stevens struggled to move the football for much of the game. In fact, it took the Raiders into the fourth quarter to get their first first down. Stevens had a minus-9 yards in the first half and just 44 yards of total offense in the game.
“Basically they took advantage of our miscues on special teams and we didn’t move the ball offensively,” Stevens coach Paul Ferdinand said.
Lincoln led 44-0 before Stevens quarterback Luke McLaughlin scored on a 3-yard run with just 4:54 to play. He set up the score on a 35-yard scamper. It was just the second offensive play for Stevens over 7 yards.
Lincoln would go on to lead 23-0 at halftime after Quintanilla out-ran the Stevens defense on a 31-yard TD run with 6:12 left in the second quarter.
The Patriots scored just one time in the third quarter on a 14-yard pass from Burchill to Dylan Bartow before adding 20 more points in the fourth quarter – on a 2-yard TD run by Ethan DeCosse, a 52-yard touchdown pass from Burchill to Naasz and a late long kickoff return by DeCosse.
“As far as mistakes out on the field, we didn’t have a whole lot. We’ll watch the film and try to find a few more. For the most part, there wasn’t,” Beavers said. “We thought (Stevens) was going to be in an even front all week and they weren’t, so we had to make an adjustment, so they did a good job.”
Lincoln finished with 334 yards on offense, paced by Quintanilla’s 146 yards rushing and Burchill’s 181 yards passing. After two first-half interceptions, Burchill settled down, finishing 10-of-17 passing.
“We hit a few passes and kind of missed on a couple. He got a little happy feet and got out of the pocket a little too fast,” Beavers said. “Once he settled down, he hit a couple of nice shots to Trevor Naasz over the middle and a couple of nice reaches. He was also able to hit a couple of quick options. That’s kind of the way we work … take what they give us. The problem Connor got into was when he tried to go over the top into the wind, he hangs up there and gets picked off.”
Although Beavers said he thought his team took a while to find any emotion, he was generally pleased with its effort.
“We played well. It’s not like we played poor and just happened to score against a lesser opponent. That wasn’t the case,” Beavers said. “Stevens played hard, but I felt like we were faster and that was the difference.”
The Patriots play Washington next Friday at Howard Wood Field.