WASHINGTON, Ga. -- Larry Campbell can't remember the last time he received a better birthday present.
Lincoln County helped its legendary coach celebrate his 49th birthday with a 19-7 victory over arch-rival Washington-Wilkes in the season opener Friday night at Tiger Stadium.
"This is the best (present) in a long time," said Campbell, who picked up his 291st career victory. "I am pleased with the way we played in the first half. All the cramping took us out of sync in the second half, but we expected that with all the guys we have playing both ways."
Campbell mainly has quarterback Kenn Barnett and the always-tough Red Devil defense to thank for the victory.
Barnett, a junior making his first varsity start, threw for all three Lincoln County touchdowns including two to Kris Norman, and 141 yards.
The defense held the Tigers to 140 yards of total offense and just 8 first downs.
"I wasn't nervous," Barnett said. "We knew we were going to win. Everybody knew it. We've been ready for this all summer. We've been practicing for this game. We never lose here."
At least, not in the past 22 years. The last time WashingtonWilkes defeated Lincoln County at Tiger Stadium was 1975, 14-8.
Coach, how do you do it?
"It's a secret," Campbell said.
"Actually, we treat it like a home game. We have a pregame meal, have our devotion and get taped back at our place and then drive over here. It seems to work."
This rivalry will take on a new meaning next year when Washington-Wilkes will be reclassified down a notch to Class A and will probably wind up in Region 4-A with the Red Devils.
It's already one of the state's fiercest. Lincolnton and Washington are only 20 minutes apart and both programs have proud traditions.
"They get to hear about this one for awhile," Barnett said.
Barnett received plenty of help from the Lincoln County running game, which churned up 212 yards on the ground behind Jerry Beard and Xavier Norman, who combined for 191 yards.
The Red Devils had scoring drives of 16 and 18 plays, the second eating up 12 minutes of the 4th quarter. It was capped when Barnett hit Norman on a 17-yard pass to put the game out of reach.
"Our quarterback did a good job," Campbell said. "We missed on a touchdown pass down there (in the second quarter), and that hurt us. But we came back. Depth is again one of our problems. We always cramp up in the first game. We knew we would."
Washington-Wilkes quarterback Marvin Pender, who led his team to a 9-4 record in the Class AA quarterfinals last year, was held in check. He completed only 2 passes and rushed for 41 yards and the Tigers' only score.
Campbell and his team are coming off a disappointing season. The Red Devils finished 9-2 and lost in the first round Class A playoffs.
"Our defense was though and our running game saved me a few times," Barnett said. "We're 100 percent better than we were last year."
Lincoln Co. - 7 6 0 6- 19
Washington Wilkes - 0 0 7 0- 7
LC- Shedrick Wynn 15 pass from Kenn Barnett (Wynn kick)
LC- Kris Norman 80 pass from Barnett (kick failed)
WW- Marvin Pender 4 run (Jerry Brown kick)
LC- Norman 17 pass from Barnett (pass failed)
Next: Washington-Wilkes at Thomson, 8 p.m.; Lincoln Co. at McCormick, 8 p.m.
- Andy Johnston