LINCOLNTON, Ga. --- Lincoln County coach Larry Campbell started feeling ill about halftime, and it had nothing to do with the game.
The Red Devils overcame four turnovers with a late defensive stand to fend off hard-charging Hephzibah, 22-16, at Buddy Bufford Field.
The Rebels trailed by 13 entering the fourth quarter but scored their lone touchdown on Terry Robinson's 1-yard sneak. In the final 5:33, Hephzibah marched from its own 20 down to the Lincoln County 9. But Robinson's fourth down pass was batted away by Rusty Scott.
"I don't think you can say enough in the paper about our defense and our defensive coaches," said Campbell, who received a shot from the team doctor after his hands started shaking. "But that ain't unusual at Lincoln County.
"They've got a good football team. We didn't take them lightly."
For the third time in three weeks, Lincoln County (3-0) pulled out a win late in the game thanks to its defense, which had allowed 13 total points this season. The Red Devils contained Hephzibah for most of the night -- the Rebels gained 77 of its 169 total yards on its final drive. Hephzibah had three red-zone opportunities in the second quarter but had to settle for three field goals by kicker Dustin Dekert.
"It's tough to move the ball against Lincoln County," Rebels coach John Bowen said. "Defense kept us in the ballgame."
Hephzibah (2-1) had a chance to win the game late despite committing four turnovers, two personal foul penalties in the fourth quarter and a safety.
The Rebels trailed from the start after A.G. Middlebrooks's 40-yard scamper on the game's opening drive set up Tavious McGahee's 18-yard touchdown run.
Middlebrooks, still recovering from a stress fracture in his lower left leg, later hauled in a 22-yard TD pass to stake Lincoln County to a 14-3 lead. Middlebrooks rushed 14 times for 149 yards and caught two passes for 31 yards. His 46-yard TD run midway through the third quarter staked the Red Devils to a 13-point advantage.
Hephzibah rallied behind a defense that forced two fumbles and picked off two passes in the second half. The Rebels took advantage of Franklin Sherman's lost fumble on the 14. Three plays later, Robinson scored to pull the Rebels within six points early in the fourth quarter.
Hephzibah cornerback Chris Owens intercepted two passes in the final 7:30, his second pick setting up his team's final drive. Robinson completed a 13-yard pass to his brother, Gary, on fourth down on the Rebels 25. Then, Antoine Nabors scampered 36 yards. Hephzibah got to the 8, but Lincoln County's defense stiffened. Robinson's fourth down pass with 27 seconds to go was knocked down by Scott near the line.
"We got a 'W'," Middlebrooks said. "That's all that matters.
"We play as a team. We win as a team. We are a team. We're all brothers."
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
LINCOLN COUNTY 22, HEPHZIBAH 16
PLAY OF THE GAME: Early in the fourth quarter after pulling within six and then holding Lincoln County on third down, Hephzibah committed a costly 15-yard personal foul penalty -- a momentum-killer. The Rebels would've gotten the ball around midfield.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: A.G. Middlebrooks . The explosive Lincoln County running back gained 149 yards on 14 carries and tacked on two touchdowns.
WHY LINCOLN COUNTY WON: The Red Devils might still be finding a consistent offense, but that swarming defense helped contain Hephzibah's playmakers for most of the night.
WHY HEPHZIBAH LOST: The Rebels committed four turnovers but still had a chance to win it at the end.
WHAT'S NEXT: Hephzibah (2-1) at Westside, 7:30 p.m., Friday. Lincoln County (3-0) plays host to Abbeville, 7:30 p.m., Friday.