GREENSBORO, Ga. - It was a typical August opener, filled with foolish penalties, heat-induced cramps, blown calls and broken plays. Unfortunately for Lincoln County, most of it came at the Red Devils' expense.
Greene County junior quarterback Josh Nesbitt passed for two touchdowns and rushed for two more as the Tigers drubbed the Red Devils, 38-13 on opening night.
Nesbitt threw for 140 yards and rushed for 100 as Class AA Greene County dominated the perennial Class A power.
It was the same result but a much different tone from a year ago, when Greene County surprised the Red Devils in the season opener in Lincolnton. That loss proved to be the only one for Lincoln County before succumbing in the Georgia Dome to eventual state champion Clinch County.
"As I told our fans, it will be tough the first three games," Lincoln County coach Larry Campbell said, noting the Red Devils play up in classification each of the next two weeks against Burke County and Greenbrier. "If we can hold it together, we'll be ready come Class A time."
Starting quarterback Rontae Norman couldn't revive the offense after a promising touchdown drive on the opening series. Brandon Barden switched from tight end to quarterback late in the third quarter, scoring on a 44-yard run and completing three passes for 112 yards as the lone offensive highlights against a talented Greene County team.
After holding penalties nullified Lincoln County's first two plays from scrimmage, the Red Devils mounted an impressive march. Eight rushing plays, including a 19-yard option run by Shawntavious Jennings, ate up 70 yards. Tyler Beale capped the drive with an 11-yard touchdown burst up the middle.
Fortunes, however, turned quickly against the Red Devils late in the first quarter.
Lincoln County appeared to go ahead by two touchdowns when Jennings picked up a fumble after a Greene County reception and returned it 88 yards for the score. But one official ruled that Tigers receiver Emanuel Drake never had control of the catch.
"We showed potential on the opening drive and picked up what was a fumble in everyone's eyes but one official," Campbell said. "We could have been up 14-0 and been in a dogfight."
Greene County scored seven plays later on a third-and-27 heave into the end zone by Nesbitt to Terrance Hall.
The Red Devils fumbled the ball away at their own 16 and 13 the next two possessions. Greene County turned the ball over on downs the first opportunity but capitalized on the second with a 3-yard Nesbitt run.
Nesbitt burned Lincoln County again before the half, completing six passes for 53 yards, including a 3-yarder to Demarcus Blake on third-and-goal, to make it 19-7 and the rout was on.