WASHINGTON, Ga. --- Walker Smith was about ready to return to the soccer team before avenging three blocked field goals in a scoreless regulation with a 26-yard game-winner in the second overtime to lift Lincoln County to a 10-7 victory at rival Washington-Wilkes on Friday night.
Lincoln County drove inside the Washington-Wilkes 10-yard line four times in regulation only to come away with blocked field goals from 29, 22 and 28 yards and a failed fourth-down pass from the 4.
It was enough to lead coach Larry Campbell to go for it on fourth-and-2 in the first overtime.
"I'm going to have to apologize because I got down on my kicker," Campbell said of his young replacement for graduated all-state kicker Vance Tarver.
Smith regained his confidence with a solid point-after kick following DeVonte Wright's 7-yard touchdown run on fourth down on the first possession of overtime.
"We just needed one more stop and didn't get it," said Washington-Wilkes coach Lee Hutto. "They made the play and we didn't."
Washington-Wilkes answered with a 15-yard passing strike from Teverrius Jones to Desmond Jackson in the left corner of the end zone.
In the second overtime, penalties pushed the Tigers to a third-and-27 situation at the 32, and Jones' pass to Akeimos Coleman was intercepted in the end zone by Lincoln County's Jathan Mickens.
Lincoln County got stuffed again inside the 10, however, and Campbell sent a more confident Smith back in for the game-winner.
"I had to get my head cleared," Smith said of the boost he got from drilling the point-after. "I was kind of scared but glad they gave me the chance. It feels pretty good, especially being my first season kicking."
It was a thrilling conclusion to an unusual defensive struggle in which the Red Devils always seemed to have the upper hand on the Tigers.
Washington-Wilkes managed only two first downs in regulation -- one on Eric Scott's second rush of the game for 15 yards and another on his last for 13. In between, the Tigers gained a grand total of eight yards.
Lincoln County, on the other hand, had 228 total yards and 14 first downs in regulation, but had nothing on the scoreboard to show for it.
"When you lose one of the best offensive players in the state like we did, the defense has to pick you up," Campbell said of the season-ending injury to running A.G. Middlebrooks two games before.
Friday's game shaped up quickly as one of the defensive battles the rivals have been known to wage from time to time.
Four times since 1991 have the rivals combined for 10 or fewer points, and Washington-Wilkes' last victory in the series came in a 3-0 game in 2006 in Lincolnton.
"When you're playing Washington-Wilkes and you're Lincoln County, the game is always going to come down to the end," said Red Devils defensive end Marquis Parks.
Lincoln County stuffed Washington-Wilkes for a scant 11 yards and just one first down in the first half.
The only opportunity the Tigers had came after recovering a fumbled punt at the Red Devils 24, but an unsportsmanlike penalty celebrating the turnover pushed them back 15 yards, and the Washington-Wilkes offense backed up two more from there.
The Red Devils had three scoring chances inside the Washington-Wilkes 10-yard line and came up empty each time.
Twice Smith had low field-goal attempts blocked, and Franklin Sherman's fourth-down roll-out pass from the 4 fell incomplete just out of reach of Tavious McGahee.
Reach Scott Michaux at (706) 823-3219 or email@example.com.
LINCOLN COUNTY 10, WASHINGTON-WILKES 7 (2 OT)
PLAY OF THE GAME: Walker Smith made up for three blocked field goals by drilling a 26-yard game-winner in the second overtime.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: DeVonte Wright rushed for 60 yards in the second half and overtime, including a 7-yard touchdown on fourth down in the first OT.
WHY LINCOLN COUNTY WON: The Red Devils held the Tigers to 37 total offensive yards in regulation.
WHY WASHINGTON-WILKES LOST: A celebration penalty after a recovered fumble at the Lincoln County 29 and a helmet removal infraction in the second overtime proved costly.
NEXT: Lincoln County (6-1, 2-0) travels to Hancock Central next Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Washington-Wilkes (3-3, 1-1) plays host to Wilkinson County at 7:30 p.m.