On Friday at Keith Howard Memorial Stadium, the Golden Bears surrendered over 400 yards of offense and struggled offensively in the second half to visiting Jacksonville. When the game was on the line, though, Lincoln did what was necessary to secure a victory.
Clinging to a 31-28 lead as the third quarter waned, Lincoln saw the Golden Eagles drive from their own 15-yard line, all the way to Lincoln’s 15. The Bears stiffened at that point, though, sacking Jacksonville quarterback Jackson Bell for an 11-yard loss on third down. On fourth down, Bell’s heave into the end zone was intercepted by Lincoln senior Deylon Pearson for a touchback.
“We made a lot mental errors on defense tonight,” Lincoln head coach Ryan Herring said. “But when we had to have it, our defense stepped up and did the job.”
The offense took over from there, driving 80 yards in 10 plays, draining all but 3:41 off the fourth-quarter clock. Fullback Jay Swain scored from 7 yards out, and Lincoln led 38-28, and went on to win 45-35.
Swain and fellow back Jamario Howard each turned in big nights at fullback, spelling the injured Tykey Sillmon. Swain and Howard combined for 161 yards and three touchdowns from the fullback spot.
“It was four-down territory that entire drive,” Herring said. “I can’t say enough about those two backs coming in and getting it done. And our line – any time you’re running the veer, that means your offensive linemen are coming off and hitting people.
“We were able to play good, smashmouth football tonight.”
As a team, the Bears gained 266 rushing yards on 41 carries.
“They really controlled the line of scrimmage tonight,” said Jacksonville head coach Clint Smith said. “When you do that, you win football games.”
Lincoln (5-2, 5-0) opened the game with consecutive scoring drives. The first ended with a 21-yard field goal by sophomore Mason McLean.
After forcing a Bell interception, the Bears went 72 yards in only five plays. Quarterback Chance Byrd found wideout Tredarian Gamble from 11 yards away for the score, and McLean made it 10-0.
The rest of the half resembled a track meet. Jacksonville’s Dominique Thomas raced 79 yards for a score to make it 10-7; then freshman Zay Caldwell dashed 99 yards on the ensuing kickoff to push the margin back to 10.
The Eagles (5-2, 3-2) responded with a drive that covered 88 yards. Bell scored from two yards away, and the score was 17-14.
Lincoln answered with another touchdown drive, this one ending when Pearson turned a bubble screen into a 33-yard touchdown that made the score 24-14.
A fumble by Bell gave the ball back to Lincoln, and Howard capped a 56-yard march with a touchdown from 13 yards away, making the score 31-14.
“The turnovers came at bad times for us,” Smith said. “Of course, there’s never really a good time for a turnover.”
Thomas closed the half with a two-yard touchdown run on fourth down. To open the second half, Bell tossed a 25-yard touchdown pass to narrow the margin to 31-28.
“They’re (Jacksonville) very tough,” Herring said. “Coach Smith does a great job over there and it’s evident. Their kids play hard.
“We were very fortunate to get out of here with a win.”
After Swain’s fourth-quarter TD, Bell was harassed into another interception – this time Lincoln’s Avery Burr returned the ball to the two-yard line. Swain scored two plays later.
Bell threw one more TD pass, with 1:38 to play, to provide the final margin. Jacksonville recovered the onsides kick, but was flagged for illegal touching, allowing Lincoln to run out the clock.
The Eagles will be at home Friday against Cleburne County, while Lincoln will travel to face Alexandria.
Contact Will Heath at email@example.com.