Beset by injuries all season to its tailbacks, Lincoln County's running game didn't have many options last Friday.
Octavius Andrews, a fullback who was switched to tailback after four starting running backs had been injured, was cramping and exhausted from playing linebacker.
C.J. Norman, who was converted from wide receiver and was playing with a cast on his arm, had fumbled twice on his only two carries.
Quarterback Travis Clark had to provide any semblance of a running game, rushing for 78 yards on 10 carries.
It almost cost the Red Devils in their 28-24, last-second win against Trion to advance to Saturday's Class A finals. And if Lincoln County's running game can't get back on track against Hawkinsville in the state title game, its seven-year championship drought will continue.
Unless Larry Campbell's Red Devils can come up with something spectacular.
"It's what killed us in the third and fourth quarters against Trion," said Campbell, whose squad had a 22-0 halftime lead before allowing the Bulldogs to score 24 unanswered points. "We're going to try to run. You can't go into any game and not try to run the football. It's what got us here. We've got some big offensive linemen."
Unfortunately for Lincoln County, two of them watched from the sideline Monday.
Starters Mark Saggus and Joe Terrell were suffering from the flu and, although both said they planned to practice today, their absence - even for a day - won't help an offense that generated 111 yards on the ground against Trion.
That, however, might have been an anomaly.
Although Gavin Williams, Shawntavius Jennings, Norman and Antonio Searles - all, at one time, were starting tailbacks - have suffered significant injuries, the Red Devils have rushed for 3,156 yards and 50 touchdowns this season.
"We'll go in with our bread and butter," Saggus said. "We won't change it up until they prove they can stop it."
All season, Hawkinsville has proved it can stop the run.
It's allowing about 65 rushing yards per game, and against Clinch County running back Lorenzo Kelsaw and versatile quarterback Joe Louis Mingo, Hawkinsville dominated last Saturday.
Andrews knows what he's preparing to face. He watched the Hawkinsville-Clinch County game on television, and he saw the havoc Hawkinsville's defensive line - anchored by blue-chip recruit Charles Johnson and Brandon Perry on the ends - can cause.
"Yes, we'll be able to run, but we're not going to be able to run like we have," Andrews said. "Running straight up the middle is not going to work."
Instead, Lincoln County likely will have to rely on Clark's arm.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. After all, the senior has passed for 1,672 yards and 17 touchdowns this season.
"The more burden you put on Travis, the more burden you put on the offensive line," Campbell said. "It puts more pressure on your receivers. I don't know. But we're going to go down and play them. We're not going to accept that we're just going down there to play for runner-up."
Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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