CAMBRIDGE CITY, Ind.
What a difference a week made for Lincoln’s football team.
And what a difference improved blocking and tackling made in the Golden Eagle game Friday night.
One week after dropping a four-touchdown decision to rival Hagerstown, Lincoln reversed course — right into the semifinals for Class A Sectional 45.
Kyler Baker rushed for more than 200 yards, quarterback Ben Singer accounted for four touchdowns and Lincoln halted Hagerstown 49-28 in a tournament opener.
The Golden Eagles travel next Friday to take on Eastern Hancock.
“We got some opportunistic turnovers, which helped us out,” said Lincoln coach Phil Renforth.
So did a rushing game that chewed up yardage and clock — especially in the second half.
Unofficially, Baker rushed for 242 yards. A good chunk of that came in the second half as Lincoln started to pull away from its 21-21 halftime tie with the Tigers.
Singer scored on a 1-yard run, followed by Baker’s 10-yard touchdown for a 35-21 Golden Eagle lead after three quarters.
Singer scored his fourth — and final — touchdown of the night on a 16-yard run with 10:49 to play in the fourth quarter.
“I thought our offensive lineman played so much better than they played the week before,” Renforth said, referring to last week’s 42-14 home loss to the Tigers. “We controlled the line of scrimmage this week, which we didn’t last week.
“Last week they were able to control the football and pretty much do what they needed to do, and this week we were able to.”
Hagerstown struck first, recovering a fumble on the opening drive, capped by a 1-yard run by Trevor Bradway.
Baker and the Golden Eagles answered right back. The sophomore sprinted his way 33 yards for his first score and a 7-6 Lincoln lead after one quarter.
The first half followed that pattern: Hagerstown scored, and Lincoln scored right back.
“Coach Renforth did a great job with his game plan. I thought his kids played really hard,” said Hagerstown coach Scott Snodgrass, whose squad finished 1-9. “We knew this game was going to come down to who wanted it the most, and who caught some breaks. Last week we caught some breaks, and this week they caught some breaks. That’s just how football works.”
Bradway rushed for 126 yards to lead the Tigers. Bradway scored three of the Tiger touchdowns, with Clayton Barber adding the other on a 2-yard run in the first half.
Singer tossed touchdowns to Cody Taylor and Ben Bertsch, while Aaron Isaacs had the game’s final score — a 5-yard Lincoln TD run late in the fourth quarter.
Baker stayed busy. He ran the ball the majority of the time on Lincoln’s last drive that took nearly 7 minutes off the clock.
“He was the man with the football tonight,” Renforth said of Baker.
Lincoln’s defense also was active in the second half. The Golden Eagles forced Hagerstown to punt on its first possession of the third quarter, and Lincoln recovered a pair of second-half fumbles.
“That was a little bit uncharacteristic of us right there,” Snodgrass said. “It was just one of those things.
“We couldn’t stop them. They ran the ball really well. I felt like their O-line did a great job, and I felt like at key times they stepped up and got it done.”
Lincoln (1-9) is at Eastern Hancock (10-0) in a Sectional 45 semifinal, while Northeastern (8-2) plays host to Monroe Central (6-4) in the other.
Eastern Hancock downed Union City 78-27 in the Royals’ first-round matchup.
“It’ll be tough next week, but we’re going to enjoy this one, watch some film … and figure out what we need to do,” Renforth said. “I’m just real pleased with our effort tonight more than anything.”