LINCOLNTON, Ga. - The game had the feel of a playoff prep football game. It even included the biggest crowd to attend a game at Buddy Bufford Field since last year's state championship game.
Like has been the case the last 33 years in the rivalry between the Lincoln County Red Devils and Warren County Screaming Devils, it was the Red Devils prevailing victorious, 14-7. This year's match-up proved to be the closest one ever.
"They shut the door on us, offensively," said Warren County Head Coach Lee Hutto, whose team was tied with Lincoln County for first place in the region standings with perfect 4-0 marks. "We had a hard time blocking. That made the difference."
Coach Hutto, whose Screaming Devils had been ranked No. 8 in the state, are now 6-2 overall and 4-1 in Region 7-A. The Screaming Devils will try to get back on the winning track when they host Wilkinson County for the first game in their new football stadium this Friday night. Kickoff time is at 7:30 p.m.
Warren County came into the game with some impressive offensive statistics, but they were held to just 156 total offensive yards against Lincoln County, whose defensive unit played as well as they have all season, said legendary Lincoln County Head Coach Larry Campbell.
"It was a great game," said Coach Campbell. "Warren County has a very good football team and they proved it by playing us as close as they did. For us, this was a big win."
The Red Devils go to Twiggs County this Friday in another key region encounter.
A good chunk of the yardage generated by the Screaming Devils came on two plays - a 40-yard touchdown run by Kentrell Latimore and a 31-yard pass play from quarterback Tommy Seals to wide receiver Travis Burley.
Both teams played each other to a scoreless first half. Lincoln County didn't threaten, however. With just 1:32 left in the first half, the Red Devils attempted to get some points on the scoreboard. The Screaming Devils' defensive unit wouldn't stand for it, as Reginald Johnson blocked a field goal attempt by Lincoln County's Vance Tarver.
"That was a great play on the part of Reginald," Coach Hutto said. "I was extremely proud of the way our defense played them in the first half."
Another big defensive play turned in during the first half by Warren County came when Burley intercepted a Lincoln County pass with 8:52 to play in the second quarter. The Screaming Devils were unable to get anything going offensively - the offensive series ending on a 49-yard punt by Seals.
After an inspiring first half, the Screaming Devils came out fired up on the opening kickoff by Lincoln County.
And within a short period of time, Warren County had points on the scoreboard - following the explosive touchdown run by Latimore. The drive, engineered by Seals following a 29-yard kickoff return by Dominique Menchaca, lasted four plays and went 61 yards. The touchdown came with 10:02 to play in the third quarter.
Antonio Benton kicked the extra point, which gave Warren County a 7-0 lead and caused the large crowd on the Warren County side to become very excited.
The lead didn't last long.
The Red Devils, two-time defending state champions, came storming right back downfield following the ensuing kickoff by C.J. Williams.
Behind quarterback Austin Goldman, the Red Devils began a scoring drive of their own from their 45. And several plays later, they were in the end zone on a three-yard plunge by Jafabian Green. Tarver kicked the extra point that knotted the game at 7-7 with 5:14 to play in the third.
Then with 9:49 left in the game, the Red Devils struck pay dirt again. A.G. Milldlebrooks scored on a 6-yard touchdown run. Tarver kicked the extra point, as Lincoln County went out to a 14-7 lead.
Warren County's defensive unit again withstood a strong test by Lincoln County late in the game.
Warren County 7, Lincoln County 14
Star of the game: Lincoln County's A.G. Middlebrooks rushed 14 times for a total of 142 yards and scored what proved to be the winning touchdown on a 6-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Play of the game: Lincoln County's defensive unit held Warren County to just 108-yards rushing - the Screaming Devils lowest offensive output this season.
Up Next: Warren County plays host to Wilkinson County this Friday in their new football stadium. Game time is 7:30 p.m.