LINCOLNTON, Ga. — The longest title drought in Lincoln County history may have found a missing ingredient to get the Red Devils’ mojo back – Hearst. Gerard Hearst.
Hearst, the son of Lincoln County legend Garrison Hearst, who went on to star at Georgia and the NFL, has moved from John’s Creek to play his final high school season at his father’s alma mater. The Red Devils hope Gerard Hearst’s presence can help restore the program’s championship spirit.
“We’ve kind of kept it quiet but that’s gonna help us,” Lincoln County coach Kevin Banks said of Hearst’s power and speed in the backfield.
Lincoln County hasn’t won a Region 7-A title since 2012 or captured a state championship since 2006 – both the longest gaps in school history. The Red Devils have been unable to wrest the region crown from rival Aquinas, having lost four consecutive years to the Irish.
“We’re gunning for a region championship; we’re going to get that,” said senior receiver Midarious “Duke” Roberts. “We’ve got to beat Aquinas. We’ve got to. It’s a rich tradition and we haven’t beaten them in a few years. So we’re going to go out there and give it all we got.”
Th Red Devils have 13 seniors and are hungry to change the narrative.
“Indescribable hunger,” said senior running back Jamal Norman. “We’re seniors now so it’s something I never felt. I’d never seen my classmates lead like they’re doing now. I see the hype and see the fuse they want to win. We’re pushing each other and think we can do it this year through hard work. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”
Lincoln County certainly has the skill players to get it done, led by senior quarterback Javon Reid who both rushed and passed for more than 1,000 yards last season.
The departure of longtime running back Quay Hartfield is more than offset by the addition of Hearst and Norman in the backfield. With Roberts returning as the leading receiver, Lincoln County should be able to spread the field and be productive offensively to go along with its experienced defense.
“I think our skill folks are as good as anybody around here,” Banks said. “I like our defensive front and our linebackers and our secondary is going to be pretty good. We’ve just got to get our offensive line to gel. We’ve got some, just got to get them to gel a little bit.”
Lincoln County expected bigger things from last year’s team but finished 7-4-1 and failed to advance past the second round of the Class A public schools playoffs for the fourth consecutive year.
“I hope some people sleep on us,” Banks said. “Because we may not have as many (kids), but our first level is as good as anybody’s first level now. We just can’t get hurt. We’ve still got 13 seniors on this team and any time you have 13 seniors on a Lincoln County football team, you ought to have a good football team.”
In his fourth season at the helm, Banks is feeling the pressure to elevate Lincoln County to its familiar championship standing.
“People around here don’t care about all that or how young you are, the expectation is always high,” Banks said. “State championship or bust. That’s the expectation around here. That’s realistic. If some things happen, it could happen now. You’ll see us play. You’ll see.”