LINCOLNTON, Ga. - Think Lincoln County had something to prove to its coaches? Think the Red Devils had something to prove to the rest of the state? Think they had something to prove to themselves?
Friday night, quarterback Travis Clark provided the answer.
Leading 6-0 against Athens Academy in a game Lincoln County would win 35-7, Clark took a quarterback keeper in the second quarter and rushed for a 10-yard score.
But that wasn't all. Putting an exclamation point on the touchdown, Clark ran straight at the Spartans defender stationed about two yards into the end zone and bowled over him.
The hit was perhaps a tad unnecessary - the referee already had raised his hands to indicate a score before Clark made contact - but it showed the Red Devils' fans their team doesn't believe what the coaching staff has said all week:
That Lincoln County, ranked No. 1 in Class A, isn't really the best team in the state.
"We're the best," senior Octavius Andrews said. "I'm not putting any team over mine. They say we're No. 1, so we're No. 1. Nobody is going to beat us this season. But we've got to prove it to them and to ourselves. If we don't, we'll mess around and get beat."
Clinch County might have something to say about that.
Although the defending state champion lost last week to Charlton County, one of the state's top Class AA teams, Red Devils coach Larry Campbell says Clinch County is in a league by itself.
Friday's performance did nothing to dissuade him.
"I know what Clinch County has coming back," said Campbell, whose squad lost to the Panthers 28-14 in the state quarterfinals last year. "They only lost two offensive linemen. Nobody has given us a really tough game. We'll get it next week. Next week, you'll see one of the best teams in the state."
A team the Red Devils (4-0) really want to beat.
Last year, as Campbell was attempting to grab the state record for career wins, No. 5 Commerce defeated Lincoln County 28-6. It was the Red Devils' third-straight loss to the Tigers.
Josh Beard is determined not to let that happen again when Commerce visits Lincolnton on Friday.
"We want it bad," Beard said. "We're ready for them. They've beaten us three years in a row, and we want them just as bad as we wanted Washington-Wilkes. You know how that is."
That result is already in the book. The Red Devils beat the Tigers 21-8 to open the season and snap a three-year losing streak to Washington-Wilkes.
But Campbell doesn't believe his team will be overconfident when it takes the field against Commerce.
"I hope not," he said. "We've preached it. Sometimes you're only as good as your schedule. We'll definitely know next week."
Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216 or email@example.com