It’s finally Aquinas-Lincoln County week.
Irish coach James Leonard said after Aquinas beat George Walton on Sept. 6, seemingly everyone associated with the school wanted to talk about Lincoln County – could this be the year? But to keep his team ready for the next opponent, Leonard did his best to minimize the Lincoln County talk. So he banned that in practice.
Aquinas, ranked No. 3 in Class A, hasn’t beaten the Red Devils since 1972, losing the next 32 games since then. The Irish are getting closer, however, with the 20-13 loss in 2012 the closest they’ve been in the series since a 15-9 loss in 1981.
But this year’s team, undefeated at 5-0 for the second year in a row, is doing its best to focus as the Irish visit Lincoln County Friday night in a critical Region 7-A game.
“They’ve been handling it well,” Leonard said. “All the kids in school want to talk about it. All the moms and dads want to talk about it. But the kids are level-headed. They’ve done a good job. We can’t buy into the hype. There are going to be a lot of people there, and it’s going to be loud. We got to treat it like it’s another game.”
Aquinas starting quarterback Liam Welch is directing an offense that has flashed a dangerous passing game to go along with a potent rushing attack behind running back Ruben Garnett and a strong line.
“He’s one of the best all-around players in the CSRA,” Lincoln County coach Larry Campbell said of Garnett.
The Red Devils’ offense is led by running back Mike McIntire, who has more than 750 rushing yards.
But is this the year Aquinas ends the streak?
Lincoln County has owned the series. After Aquinas’ win in 1972, the Irish needed the following 10 series games just to reach the point total from 1972’s 45-0 win.
Welch’s uncle, Matt, was a player on that 1972 Irish team. According to stats printed in The Augusta Chronicle the next day, Matt kicked the final extra point in the win against the Red Devils.
The Welch on this year’s team is doing what he can to not let the hype about the losing streak get to him.
“It’s just about the game at hand,” the quarterback said. “You don’t want to think about years past. It’s all about the present right now.”