The undefeated Red Devils capitalized on two special teams plays with a pair of touchdowns in less than three minutes to spark a fifth consecutive victory in what the Region 7-A neighbors call the Highway 378 War. Lincoln County (7-0, 3-0) has won nine of the last 10 meetings with Washington-Wilkes to stake a 36-32-6 lead in the overall series dating back to 1922.
“It feels good,” said Red Devils senior Mason Saggus of never losing to the Tigers.
Coach Larry Campbell didn’t feel quite as good about the victory that was in doubt until the fourth quarter.
“If we’re satisfied with the way we played, it’s just a matter of time before we get beat,” Campbell said. “Lincoln County is a better football team than what we showed, and that’s not taking away from Washington-Wilkes and what they did. But if we plan to go anywhere in the playoffs, we have to get better without a doubt.”
The rivalry started off a stalemate until Saggus broke up the middle on a 36-yard punt return to the Washington-Wilkes 20 late in the first quarter. That set up a 1-run touchdown run by Mike McIntire four plays later to give the Red Devils a 7-0 lead with 11:29 left in the first half.
Washington-Wilkes’ Treyvon Booker fumbled away the ensuing kickoff, setting Lincoln County up at the 20 again. Five plays later, Denzel Gunby hit Tra Brown open in the left end zone on third-and-goal from the 4 to make it 14-0.
“We made way too many mistakes and we’ve been doing that all year long,” said Washington-Wilkes first-year coach Robbie Robinson. “You can’t make those kind of mistakes against a great team.”
The Tigers looked set to answer the Red Devils scoring burst after driving 65 yards to the Lincoln County 10. But on second down, Buck Robinson’s pass sailed high over his intended receiver and into the arms of Lincoln County’s Zireycus Letman at the goal line.
Washington-Wilkes came right back on its next possession. After a 35-yard connection from Robinson to Daquan Heard,
Jalen Turner took a wildcat snap and burst 27 yards for a touchdown on third down. The missed point-after left it 14-6 with 1:12 left in the half.
The Tigers twice drove into Lincoln County territory in the third quarter only to stall just outside of the red zone. After Washington-Wilkes turned the ball over on downs at the Red Devil 30 with 11 minutes left, Lincoln County responded with its two best drives of the night to seal the game on touchdowns by Craig Jones and McIntire.
“It was very disheartening to watch Lincoln County get in their two-back offense and slam it down our throats without us being able to stop it there in the fourth quarter,” said Robinson.
Robinson threw for 172 yards including a late 15-yard touchdown to Daquan Heard to finish the scoring for the Tigers.
“It’s a big rivalry game and we can’t get so down on ourselves,” said Robinson, the ninth Tigers coach to face Campbell since 1972.
“We’ve got a lot to play for. Our plans are to run the table and go 6-4 and be the No. 3 team out of this region, which is the toughest region in the state, bar none. The opportunity is there for us.”