LINCOLNTON, Ga --- Lincoln County's players swarmed toward the football near the right pylon, only to watch it squirt out of bounds at the 1-yard line.
Their fans rocked and roared to approve the blocked punt in the fourth quarter because this was the moment the Red Devils would score their first points and snatch every drop of momentum away from Savannah Christian.
Instead, Lincoln County netted zero yards in three plays, then had its fourth-down pass intercepted. It was the biggest defensive stand on a night full of them, an evening that ended with Savannah Christian ousting Lincoln County from the Class A playoffs with a 7-0 win. Savannah Christian (13-0) will meet Darlington next week in an all-private school semifinal.
"You get the ball on the 1-yard line and don't score, you can blame that on the head coach," said Lincoln County coach Larry Campbell, the winningest coach in Georgia.
"No excuses. We had four plays to get it in. ... We were going to get it in."
Seven Lincoln County drives reached Raiders territory, including three of the first six. In those drives, Lincoln County tossed two interceptions, fumbled once, turned the ball over on downs three times and also allowed the first-half clock to expire.
The Red Devils (11-2) were shut out for the second time this season even though they outgained Savannah Christian 183-98 and didn't allow a first down in the second half.
"We got whipped on the line of scrimmage (on offense)," Campbell said. "That was obvious."
Said Savannah Christian coach Donald Chumley: "It's a team sport, and our defense rose up and played well."
Chumley utilized a brazen game plan that amplified confidence in his defense. The Raiders attempted an onside kick after their first touchdown -- Lincoln County recovered -- and went for it on fourth-and-4 from their own 32-yard line late in the first half (an option run went for negative yards).
Savannah Christian quarterback Harrison Curry, a deceptively powerful runner out of the triple option who was hit in the backfield on nearly all of his 11 carries, finished with 41 rushing yards.
He had his team's most significant offensive play: churning his legs forward to the Red Devils' 10-yard line to convert a third-and-1.
Running back Chris Barnwell breezed up the middle on the next play for a second-quarter touchdown on a drive set up with a fumble recovery at the Lincoln County 21.
"I don't think either team would have scored without a turnover," Campbell said.
Lincoln County recovered a fumble 30 yards from the end zone with 11:07 left. It gained 15 yards on its first play, then went backward on its next four to wipe away another scoring opportunity.
Its four plays after taking over on the 1-yard line with 6:56 left after the punt block went: 0-yard run, negative-3-yard run after a false-start penalty, 8-yard pass, interception.
Reach Matt Middleton at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SAVANNAH CHRISTIAN 7, LINCOLN COUNTY 0
PLAY OF THE GAME: Savannah Christian's Hal Davis forced a Franklin Sherman fumble early in the second quarter. The Raiders took over 21 yards from the end zone and scored the game's only touchdown four plays later.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Pick a player on the Savannah Christian defense, which created the game-changing fumble early and played well all night.
WHY SAVANNAH CHRISTIAN WON: Well, that's sort of tough to figure out. Its defense did everything, making up for an offense that didn't gain a first down in the final 25 minutes.
WHY LINCOLN COUNTY LOST: Its offense failed to score, even when it started a possession 1 yard from the end zone. The Red Devils did almost everything else: played stellar defense, forced a key fumble and blocked a punt.
NEXT: Savannah Christian (13-0) will play in the state semifinals next week against Darlington.
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