After an 0-3 start to the season, all Lincoln’s football team could dwell on was preparation for the playoffs.
As the losses mounted, the Trojans had to look at the quality opponents they had played— six losses to teams with a combined win-loss record of 49-8.
Friday’s first-round playoff game at Gene Cox Stadium against 7-3 Jacksonville Robert E. Lee then wasn’t anything new for Lincoln.
The Trojans withstood everything the Generals threw at them, even on an imperfect night, even with an overtime, but came out victorious, 44-41.
Lincoln (5-6) will host Lake City Columbia (10-1) next week in the Region 1-7A semifinals. The Tigers defeated Chiles, 42-27.
“I’m just proud of the kids for not getting down and never giving up,” Lincoln coach Yusuf Shakir said. “I tell that kids that it’s life. They’re going to have tough situations. You have to keep fighting and let the chips fall where they may.”
After Lee (7-4) tied the game at 38-38 with 23 seconds left in regulation, Lincoln confidently went to overtime.
The Trojans had already experienced an overtime-type scenario two weeks ago when they were in a Monday tiebreaker with Chiles and Leon.
The Generals got the ball first, and their offense had racked up over 300 yards rushing on the night.
But the Lincoln defense pushed, using a holding penalty that negated a touchdown to set up a third-and-21. That led to a 38-yard field goal.
All the Trojans needed was a touchdown. All they did was go back to shades of the play that beat Leon with one second remaining.
Lincoln quarterback Chris Brimm found receiver Malik Garye on an 8-yard fade to the left end zone, completing the night’s fireworks.
“It wasn’t just my confidence, it was my quarterback’s conference in me that went up,” said Garye, drawing comparison to his previous touchdown. “We knew that once we got to the red zone, it was one of those plays we could do and score on to win the game. It feels great. It’s just like the tiebreaker, and it feels amazing.”
Lee quarterback Derrick Jones gashed the Trojans’ defense for 167 yards and three touchdowns. Generals running back Tony Belle had 176 and two touchdowns and also contributed a 19-yard receiving touchdown from Jones.
Factor in other tailback Cameron Wakefield’s 65 yards rushing and 48 yards receiving, and it was a long night for the Trojans, who couldn’t get the timely third down stop.
But Lincoln did manage to jump on a fumble and it secured two second-half interceptions to kill Lee drives.
Freddie Simmons had the first setting up Kalil Clark’s 31-yard field goal for a 31-25 lead to start the fourth quarter.
After Jones hit Belle for the aforementioned receiving score, tying the game at 31-31— Lincoln blocked an important extra point— Raekwon Archer got the game’s biggest turnover.
His pick happened when a receiver ran the wrong route, and the defensive back secured the interception at his own 22 and returned it to the Lee 5.
That set up Brimm’s 10-yard touchdown to Will Farmer for a 38-31 lead with 2:34 remaining.
“Coach always says to take advantage of your opportunities,” Archer said. “I took advantage. I knew my team needed it.”
Will to win
Lincoln allowed 448 yards of offense, but it found other ways to win. Marquel Pittman returned a kick 75 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, moments after Bell ripped off a 60-yard touchdown.
The special teams score gave Lincoln back the lead 14-13, and immediately after the Generals fumbled, leading to Denzel Washington’s short touchdown and a 21-point second quarter.
Lincoln forced a three-and-out and following a punt Brimm (16 of 22, 191 yards, 3 TD) hit Pittman for a 45-yard gain. The downside was a fumble a play later just outside the red zone, which allowed Lee back in the game before half.
“Marquel’s return was humongous,” Shakir said. “We could have separated, but we didn’t. Those are the little things we have to work on. We could have gone up 14 and then the game might have been totally over.”
But of course the defense did finally come up big at the end in overtime— effectively deciding the game when the Trojans’ offense was able to come back out and score to win.
“We had to be sturdy and hold our ground,” Archer said.
“They just continued to play and played the entire game,” Shakir added. “They played until the last play, for real.”
“We knew with (running back) Ricky (Henrilus) out it it would be a bit hard on our run, but we have receivers that can make plays. We decided to start putting the ball in the air to drive down the field and score points. … We knew we had the match-up with Malik on the fade. I just gave him a chance. It’s just a great feeling.” — Lincoln quarterback Chris Brimm, on the passing game’s effectiveness and the game-winning touchdown.
Lincoln vs. Columbia, Part II
The Trojans dropped a 243-14 game to Columbia in its second game of the season. After the game, Shakir reminded his team they could very well see the Tigers again in the regional semifinals. And that’s right where Lincoln finds itself, with a chance to avenge.
Shakir will go up against Columbia coach Brian Allen, who starred for the Tigers in the late 1990s before going on to play for Florida State. Allen and Shakir both played against each other as players at Gene Cox Stadium and will now square off against each other for the second time this season on the very same field.
“Right back here,” Shakir said. “We’re just trying to come out here and play, take it one game at a time. We just want to go 1-0. We’ll see how it goes.”
LINCOLN 44, LEE 41 (OT)
Lee 6 13 6 13 – 3 — 41
Lincoln 0 21 7 10 – 6 — 44
Lee — Derrick Jones 14 run (kick failed), 6:49
Lincoln — Ricky Henrilus 1 run (Kalil Clark kick), 9:08
Lee — Tony Belle 60 run (Darren Hayes kick), 6:39
Lincoln — Marquel Pittman 75 kickoff return (Clark kick), 6:28
Lincoln — Denzel Washington 3 run (Clark kick), 4:55
Lee — Jones 1 run (conversion failed), 0:19
Lincoln — Jones 5 run (conversion failed), 4:50
Lee — Pittman 19 pass from Chris Brimm (Clark kick), 1:01
Lincoln — Clark 31 field goal, 11:48
Lee — Belle 19 pass from Jones (kick blocked), 7:59
Lincoln — Will Farmer 10 pass from Brimm (Clark kick), 2:34
Lee — Belle 3 run (Haynes kick), :23
Lee — Haynes 38 field goal
Lincoln — Malik Garye 8 pass from Brimm
Passing— Lee: Derrick Jones 9-20-140-1-2; Lincoln: Chris Brimm 16-22-191-3-0
Rushing— Lee: Jones 26-167, Tony Belle 25-176, Cameron Wakefield 7-65; Lincoln: Ricky Henrilus 1-1, Denzel Washington 13-31, Brimm 3-6, Marquel Pittman 1-2, Diamonds Haynes 3-1, Keyvon Williams 1-6
Receiving— Lee: Breon Daniels 2-17, Belle 3-62, Wakefield 3-48, Jurial Caldwell 1-13; Lincoln: Pittman 3-94, Fred Daughtry 4-30, Malik Garye 2-14, Will Farmer 5-42, Washington 2-11
Lee (7-4), Lincoln (5-6)
Columbia at Lincoln, Region 1-7A semifinal, Nov. 20
Madison County 65, Union County 12
The Cowboys didn’t care that Union County entered 9-1 on the year. By half that was evident. After two quarters, Madison (8-3) was up 59-0. The Cowboys recorded five interceptions, returned a fumble for a touchdown and took a punt back to the house. They will face Fort White (9-2) next week.
NFC 42, Cedar Creek 12
The Eagles rode the legs of running back Korey Charles to a big home win. Charles, a Mississippi State commit, carried 13 times for 185 yards and two touchdowns, while catching two passes for 64 yards and a touchdown.
Adding to the yardage push, Troy Jones rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown, while quarterback Avery Thomas hit Nate Shafer for a touchdown to go with his one to Charles.
The Eagles (7-3) face off with playoff rival University Christian next week.
Lincoln 44, Lee 41 OT
Columbia 42, Chiles 27
Fort White 14, Jefferson County 8
Blountstown 21, Liberty County 0
Wakulla 21, Bay 16
NFC 42, Cedar Creek 12
Rickards 42, West Florida 39
Taylor County 42, Providence 28
University Christian 59, Maclay 6
Madison County 65, Union County 12