LINCOLNTON, Ga. – Not much has changed in the 91 years since McCormick and Lincolnton crossed state lines in 1922 to play the first two football games in Red Devils history.
Those inaugural Red Devils won the initial showdowns by a combined score of 114-6. On Friday night Lincoln County kicked off its 2013 season with a 41-0 drubbing of South Carolina’s Class A, Division II runner-up last season. It was the 21st consecutive victory by Lincoln County in the series.
Everything Lincoln County did in the first half worked out as the Red Devils scored touchdowns on their first five possessions and one of McCormick’s as well to build a 41-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
Mike McIntire rushed for 148 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries while Lakeith Lockhart passed for 103 yards, including a pair of touchdowns to Jamar Norman, who converted short passes into scores of 62 and 29 yards.
Norman also added a 65-yard interception return of a Jeffery Weaver pass in the second quarter.
“Two great football players without a shadow of a doubt,” Lincoln County coach Larry Campbell said of McIntire and Norman. “And the quarterback played well and that really helps Mike’s running game when the quarterback’s a threat. ... Jamar and Mike are two big guns for us and I think our quarterback will be as the season goes on for us.”
Lockhart – a junior whose only previous start was last October against Aquinas – also rushed for 48 yards on three carries. The Red Devils outgained the visiting Chiefs 307-76 in total yards in the first half while Lincoln County’s defense forced three turnovers.
“It set the tone for the team and we look forward to doing it two weeks from now against Washington-Wilkes,” said Norman of the annual rivalry game.
There was no scoring in the second half as both teams used up the benches with a running clock.
Despite losing 24-0 to Lincoln County last year, McCormick came into the game with some confidence after winning 11 games and reaching the state finals in 2012 before losing to Cross. Its only other loss was to Class A, Division I state champion Christ Church.
The resurrection of the Chiefs program – which hadn’t had a winning season since 1998 – was enough to earn head coach Brian Neal a new gig at the helm of Class AAAA Aiken High School. Former offensive coordinator Bryan Buffkin took over as interim head coach for this season to lead an experienced team with reasonable aspirations of reaching the state finals again and perhaps winning the school’s first state title since 1948.
But as has often been the case, the Chiefs were no match for the perennially powerful Red Devils.
“Lincoln County typically has this philosophy that they’re going to come out and do wn what they do better than you do what you do,” Buffkin said. “When you’re running the same three plays back to back to back and you’re getting yardage off of it, it’s a testament to the strength of their character and the strength of their program. They’ve got phenomenal athletes.”
It didn’t take long for Lincoln County to strike after recovering a Weaver fumble at the McCormick 34 on the third play of the game. Five plays later, McIntire busted through the defense for a 16-yard touchdown.
Three minutes later, Lockhart hit Norman wide right on a screen and the senior outran everybody up the sideline for a 62-yard score to make it 14-0.
McIntire capped the next two Lincoln County possessions with touchdown rushes of 8 and 19 yards to extend the lead to 34-0 early in the second quarter.
Trying to make something happen, McCormick’s Weaver lobbed a deep pass that only Norman could catch, and the Red Devil's return instincts kicked in as he raced up the left sideline for a 65-yard touchdown.
“They set up a wall for me so it was pretty amazing,” Norman said.
Three plays into the next possession, Lockhart hit Norman on another screen that resulted in a 29-yard score and 41-0 lead with 5:41 still remaining before halftime.
“He’s explosive,” McIntire said of Norman. “We’re lucky to have him. Not many teams have a guy like him. We can use him in many ways – punt return, kick return, cornerback and receiver. He’s a running back, too.”
McCormick’s only scoring threat came on the game’s final possession after the Chiefs recovered a Lincoln County fumble at the Red Devils’ 44 with 4:27 remaining. Buffkin called three timeouts to try to convert, but the Chiefs only got as far as the Lincoln County 8 before quarterback Shyran Williams was sacked to end the game.
“At the end of the day I’m trying to take something positive out of this,” said Buffkin, who cautiously used his reserves to keep several banged-up starters, including Weaver, healthy. “If it’s the fact that these kids had to get knocked down to get back up, then I’ll take that. ... We go to Fox Creek next week and at this point I’m pretty sure that’s zero to zero right now. So I want to have my healthiest guys in there.”
The Red Devils haven’t lost to their cross-state neighbor since 1974, Campbell’s second season as head coach. Lincoln County leads 34-10 in the series.