LINCOLNTON, Ga. -- Lincoln County football coach Larry Campbell didn't know what to expect from his young Red Devils this season.
They returned just four starters from last season's state semifinal team and Campbell knew this year's group was one of the youngest in his 27 seasons as coach of the school.
But after a 47-23 blowout of third-ranked Commerce on Friday night at Buddy Buford Stadium, many are wondering if the Red Devils will be beaten this season.
"We still have to play," said Lincoln senior quarterback Kenn Barnett. "I think that was what happened to us last year (when Manchester beat Lincoln 6-3 in state semifinals). We were overlooking teams. But beating Commerce tonight, we knew that would be a big step to beat them."
Barnett accounted for three of the Red Devils' seven touchdowns of the evening, including two touchdown runs of 15 and 1-yard in the first quarter to help Lincoln build a 12-0 lead.
Then the senior hooked up senior wide receiver Exavier Wright on a 24-yard touchdown play that gave Lincoln a 20-0 with 10:54 left before halftime.
But as high-powered as Lincoln's offense has been the past two weeks in blowouts over Temple and Commerce, outscoring the two teams by a total of 86-31, it was the defense again that set the tone in the game. The Red Devils tallied 520 total yards in the game.
Just like last week when Lincoln raced out to an early halftime lead, the Red Devils built a 27-0 lead and held a commanding 27-8 lead at halftime.
"The defense always sets the tone for us and they did a great job on that first series and gave us good field position," Campbell said. "We were really looking good when we were running behind our big offensive tackle (junior Marcus Ramsey). He got hurt in the first quarter and our game-plan kind of fell apart on us. But hopefully it (injury) isn't anything serious."
Commerce managed just 87 total yards in the first half and three first downs. Of the Tigers' 87 first half yards, 52 of it came on quarterback Dustin Allen's 52-yard gallop that set up the Tigers' first touchdown of the game with 6:37 left in the second quarter.
The Tigers finished with 281 yards, but sorely missed sophomore running back Monte Williams, who had rushed for 2,167 yards in 11 games for Commerce this season before suffering a broken right ankle in last week's win over Lovett.
Lincoln will now advance to play Dooly County next week in Vienna, Ga., in the Class A state quarterfinals. The Bobcats defeated second-ranked ECI Friday night in Twin City.
One of the biggest plays of the night for the Lincoln County defense came early in the second quarter with the Tigers trailing 20-0. On fourth-and-1 from the Commerce 29, Tiger coach Steve Savage elected to go for the first down instead of punting with 9:29 left before halftime.
Allen, trying to get outside, was tackled for a 2-yard loss by a herd of Lincoln defenders to give the ball back to the Red Devils in excellent field position.
After the gutsy call, it took Lincoln just five plays to score when Kris Norman scored from seven yards out on third-and-1 to make it 27-0.
Red Devil senior running back Allory Norman finished with 119 yards and a touchdown in the contest. After two home playoff games, Lincoln will play their first road playoff game next week in Vienna.
"It really don't matter to me where we play," Norman said.