Lincoln County coach Larry Campbell said his team was inspired before its 37-0 win against Aquinas on Friday when injured running back A.G. Middlebrooks stood up and spoke.
Middlebrooks, who broke his leg last week and is out for the season, hobbled around pregame warmups on crutches. His words helped lead the Red Devils to their first shutout of the season.
"Him being here at the ballgame juiced our kids up," Campbell said. "It took a lot of courage for him to be out here. ... Some kids that had never played football or running back before just stepped up."
Said running back Erdell Daniel , "He said to go out and win it for him, to keep fighting. He wanted to let us know he still supported us."
First-year varsity player Desmond Kilpatrick (102 yards of offense), Daniel (two TDs), and Craig Jones (62 yards receiving) provided ample firepower for Lincoln County.
IRISH REGROUP: With Middlebrooks out and Aquinas holding a two-game winning streak, some thought the Irish could have a chance for what would have been a rare victory. That chance had vanished midway through the second quarter.
Aquinas coach Matt LeZotte , who turned 28 on Friday, remained encouraged that his team can correct its mistakes and improve.
"It's not a step back at all," LeZotte said. "I have no idea what the lengths of some of their scores were, but it was big plays. It's not like they put together drives; they big-played us to death. That just kills you.
"We had a chance, but we didn't execute on either side of the ball the way we did in practice all week. That's a shame, because if we would have executed we would have had a chance."
Aquinas is at North Paulding next week in its final nonregion game. North Paulding, a second-year program, is much improved this season, having already earned a win over Warren County.
RIVALRY UPCOMING: Lincoln County is off this week, leading up to its annual rivalry game with Washington-Wilkes. Campbell said his team will take Monday off, then practice hard Tuesday-Thursday. His staff plans to scout the Warren County/Wilkinson County game this Friday.
Washington-Wilkes, meanwhile, won its Region 7-A opener against Hancock. Washington-Wilkes has dropped the past two games in the series, including a 14-6 setback last season.
"It will be a big ballgame; they have so much speed," Campbell said.
JUST FOR KICKS: Late in the third quarter of its 14-13 overtime win over Lakeside, Hephzibah could've given kicker Dustin Dekert a 47-yard field goal try. With three points, the Rebels would've taken a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter.
Instead, quarterback Terry Robinson was sacked for an 8-yard loss on fourth-and-11 from the Lakeside 30.
"If we could've gotten a first down, it would've been a much easier field goal," Hephzibah coach John Bowen said. "We were risking getting it blocked at that point. They were starting to wear us down a little bit on the line of scrimmage."
QB HERO: Robinson saved his biggest throw for the end of the game. In overtime, Robinson scrambled left away from intense pressure. He straightened up, threw against his body a bit and found Shaquille Wheeler in the back of the end zone for the go-ahead score.
Robinson finished the game 8 for 14 passing for 70 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also rushed seven times for minus-28 yards.
"He's a young one. He makes mistakes, and we know we've got to live through that," Bowen said. "But when it counted, he was able to make the play. It might not have been exactly orthodox, but he was able to make the play."
HARD TO SWALLOW: Lakeside overcame five lost fumbles and only 78 rushing yards to force overtime. The resiliency shown by the Panthers was a moral victory, but not one the Lakeside staff was ready to brag about.
"When you've got to look at all these kids who you've worked with all summer, worked with all preseason, and they're heartbroken, it's tough," Panthers coach Jody Grooms said. "We've played four teams with winning records. We've played some good opponents. We've got (Richmond Academy) next. This is off our back.
GOING FOR TWO: After Hephzibah jumped offside and gave Lakeside the ball just outside the 1 on the Panthers' two-point attempt in overtime, Grooms decided to go for it.
It's easy to second-guess the call, especially after the defeat. Lakeside's defense played well throughout the game, but on the flip side his offense gave up five turnovers.
From fewer than 2 yards out, Grooms tried to obtain a key region win on the road.
"We were going to try to steal one tonight," he said.
Staff writer Chris Gay contributed to this story.
Reach Matt Middleton at (706) 823-3425 or email@example.com.
RUSHING: Seth Hill, Grovetown, 212 yards in a 35-14 win over Langston Hughes
PASSING: Markquis Burton, Josey, 165 yards in a 35-12 loss to Westside
RECEIVING: Matt Hazel, North Augusta, 94 yards in a 40-21 win over White Knoll