SPENCER — The Lincoln County Panthers entered Friday nights game at Roane County shorthanded as they had four starters out due to being in COVID-19 quarantine. Add in the fact that star running back Isiah Smith did not play in the game after halftime, and one would think the Panthers would be hard pressed to come away with a road win over the Raiders.
But that’s exactly what coach Bradley Likens and company did as they traveled to County Stadium in Spencer and came out on top in a back-and-forth affair against the Raiders by the final score of 30-28.
“Isaiah (Smith) went out at halftime and in that second half a lot of guys stepped up. Colin (Miller), Luke (Adkins), Gabe Bates, and then Isiaah Koontz came up huge defensively,” Likens said. “Nolan (Shimp) was everywhere for us, on both sides of the ball...a lot of our big guys up front were having to go both ways and pretty much all of our skill guys as well. Overall I’m really proud of our kids for pushing through. And some of those other guys to step in and give them a breath here and there that haven’t normally been in our rotation defensively. That was big too. This was a true team win.”
With the game knotted up at 22 midway through the fourth quarter, Roane County (1-1) was driving into Panther territory with a chance to take their first lead since they were ahead 8-6 early in the first half.
The Lincoln County defense made a key stand however as they forced Roane County to commit their sixth turnover of the day when Gabe Bates intercepted a Shad Greathouse pass at the his ow 20 yard line and returned it 50 yards before being knocked brought down at the Raider 30 yard line.
Three plays later Lincoln County (1-1) capitalized on the mistake as Gabe Bates found Colin Miller for a 30 yard touchdown pass to give LCHS the 28-22 lead. On the ensuing two-point try, fullback Luke Adkins powered across the goal line for what would be two key points as the Panthers took the 30-22 lead with five minutes to play.
“Give credit to those big buys up front for that last two-point conversion that Luke punched in there, we needed one and they gave us one,” Likens said. “Luke made a good cut, made a good read on the zone play. The line blocked the zone Mike and usually when you have a good cut and a good zone block up front things work out.”
Roane County came right back at Lincoln County on their next possession as head coach Paul Burdett’s team went on a long drive and found the end zone with 1:30 left in the game to cut the lead to 30-28, but still needing the two-point conversion to tie the game.
Adkins came up huge for the second time in the final minutes of the game as he stuffed the Roane County ball carrier at the goal line on the two-point try and the Panthers held on to the 30-28 lead.
Lincoln County then entered their victory formation and ran out the remainder to claim the two-point road win.
Bates had a career game at quarterback for the Panthers as he completed 9-14 passes for 185 yards and four touchdowns. Three of his four touchdown passes came in the first half, with two of them coming on deep balls to Shimp.
“Nolan (Shimp) kind of gave us that deep ball threat that we’ve been looking for since I’ve been here,” Likens said. “He creates a mismatch in the secondary and Gabe made the kind of throws that he needs to make.”
Shimp finished the game with five catches for 85 yards, two touchdowns, and a pair of big two-point conversions.
Despite playing only one half Smith still amassed 128 yards of total offense in the first half. He ran 16 times and gained 63 yards while catching three balls for 65 yards, including a long 61 yard catch and run to give LCHS the 22-8 lead going into halftime.
Adkins picked up six carries for 28 yards in the second half while Miller had the key 30 yard TD reception late in the fourth quarter.
Defensively, Shimp once again was all over the field as he turned in a game high 19 tackles from his middle linebacker position. Luke Adkins was credited with seven tackles, while Isaiah Koontz, Chris Davis, Logan Sponaugle, and Miller each recorded five stops.
Koontz also came up big in the secondary in the win as he intercepted a Roane County pass deep in Panther territory to thwart a Roader scoring chance.
Senior Austin Adkins (No. 51), sophomore Austin Adkins (No. 5), and Smith each recovered a fumble to help out the defense in the win.
With the loss the Raiders fell to 1-1 on the season and will be back in action on Friday at home against Clay County while Lincoln County improved to 1-1 with the win and will return to Hamlin on Friday night to host Ripley in the annual Homecoming game.
“With Homecoming and everything I just hope that our guys can stay locked in and ready to go,” Likens said. “This is a game that we have to win and I think we’ve got a good chance to win it. We’ll hopefully get those guys we were missing this week. It should be a dog fight.”
Ripley enters the game with a 1-1 record in 2021 and lead the all-time series against Lincoln County 6-1, including a 21-7 win a year ago.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Friday night at Lions Club Field.
Score by Quarters
LCHS (1-1) 6 16 0 8 — 30
RCHS (1-1) 6 0 14 6 — 28