LINCOLNTON, Ga. - It was expected to be their toughest test yet, but the Lincoln County Red Devils barely passed with a 14-7 home victory Friday night.
Lincoln County withstood a fourth-quarter comeback bid by Commerce, stopping the Tigers on downs at the 11-yard line with 47 seconds remaining. Commerce had recovered a fumble near midfield and used two personal-foul penalties for a first down at the Red Devils 12 before the Lincoln County defense hung on.
"Commerce don't know nothing but tough," Lincoln County coach Larry Campbell said. "That's a great win for us. We tried to give it away, but that was a great win."
Lincoln County (5-0) completes its nonregion schedule and reaches the halfway point of the regular season with its perfect record and No. 1 Class A ranking intact. After a bye week, its remaining five games are against Region 7-A opponents.
Commerce (2-2) made it difficult as expected. After losing the first five meetings in the series, Commerce had won four straight against Lincoln County. Three of the four were on fourth-quarter comebacks, twice in 2000, including the Class A semifinals at the Georgia Dome.
Last season, Commerce rolled over Lincoln County, forcing Campbell to wait a week to break Georgia's all-time coaching victories record.
It was going to require another comeback by Commerce to extend its winning streak to five.
In the second quarter, Shawntavius Jennings capped a short 44-yard drive with an 8-yard scoring run and a 6-0 Red Devils lead.
But the drive of the game came just before halftime. With 2:17 remaining and 80 yards to cover, Lincoln County quarterback Travis Clark carved up the Commerce secondary with his arm. Completing five of seven passes for chunks of 17, 18, 12, 16 and 17 yards, Clark directed an 11-play touchdown drive. Steven Brown's fourth reception on the march was for 17 yards and the score with 16 seconds left in the half.
Roncey Cummings ran a reverse for the conversion and a 14-0 Lincoln County lead. The Red Devils had 129 yards passing and 104 more rushing in the first half.
"Our two-minute offense, the kids ran it to perfection," Campbell said. "That was maybe the difference in the game."
Commerce was without starting quarterback Josh Haynes, who injured his shoulder in the first quarter of last week's loss to Morgan County.
That left Dennis Wilder, the usual starting tailback, calling his own number on almost every play. Wilder accounted for 206 of Commerce's 203 total yards, with the rest of his teammates accumulating minus-3 on eight rushing plays.
Operating from the shotgun on almost every snap, Wilder either ran left, right or threw the ball. Wilder rushed the ball 37 times for 146 yards and passed for 60 more.
Despite his predictability, Wilder drove the Tigers 65 yards in eight plays, scoring on a 1-yard run with 10:22 remaining in the game to cut the Red Devils' lead to 14-7.
With Wilder worn out near the end, Commerce coach Steve Savage was forced to use Haynes on several key plays the last two possessions. The change-up didn't work as all but one of them lost yardage and stalled the Tigers' comeback efforts.
Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
LINCOLN COUNTY 14, COMMERCE 7
Lincoln County 01400-14
Second quarter LC-Jennings 8 run (kick failed), 4:16
LC-Brown 17 pass from Clark (Cummings run), 0:16
Fourth quarter C-Wilder 1 run (Eason kick), 10:22
First Downs 1216
Passing Yards 60136
RUSHING-Commerce: Wilder 37-146, Bray 2-18, T.Daniels 2-0, C.Daniels 2-(-8), Haynes 2-(-13). Lincoln County: Andrews 15-77, Williams 5-1, Clark 12-39, Jennings 5-35, Beard 3-17, Duncan 1-1.
PASSING-Commerce: Wilder 4-11-0 for 60 yards, Haynes 1-2-0 for 0. Lincoln County: Clark 8-13-0 for 129 yards, Coppin 1-1-0 for 7.
RECEIVING-Commerce: Evans 3-35, T.Daniels 1-25, Wilder 1-0. Lincoln County: Brown 6-105, Andrews 1-8, Crite 1-16, Clark 1-7.