HAMLIN — Lincoln County’s Isaiah Smith did everything but sell popcorn on Friday night against Ripley at Lions Club Field in Hamlin.
The dynamic playmaker scored five touchdowns, four in the first half alone, as the Panthers defeated the Vikings in blowout fashion by a final score of 50-21 in the annual Homecoming game.
“We put everything together tonight,” Likens said. “Isaiah (Smith) broke loose on a couple of big runs, guys helped out in the passing game a bit. The defense struggled a bit early but really locked in and finished the game out strong. Big win tonight for us on Homecoming.”
In his big first half Smith scored his four touchdowns in three different ways, as he accounted for 350 yards of total offense in the half alone for head coach Bradley Likens club and helped them build a 22-point halftime lead.
The Panthers (2-1) got on the board on their first drive of the game as QB Gabe Bates hit tight end Nolan Shimp on a 20 yard out route with 10:43 to play in the first quarter. Smith’s two-point try give the Panthers the early 8-0 lead.
After the LC defense forced a three-and-out on the next Ripley possession, Smith fielded the Ripley punt on a bounce at his own 20-yard line and made one cut then took it to the house for an 80-yard punt return score. The pass to Isaiah Koontz for the two-point try was good and LC took the 16-0 lead with 9:32 on the game clock.
Head coach Stephen Sayre’s Ripley team began to move down the field on their next drive as they aided by two penalties from Lincoln County that helped them go deep into LC territory. The Vikings got on the scoreboard when QB Ty Stephens hit tight end Blake Cummings on a 13-yard TD pass with 3:39 to play in the first. The kick was blocked and LC kept a 16-6 lead.
On the next Lincoln County possession, the Panthers were forced to punt as Michael Stevens sacked Bates on 3rd down to send the ball back over to the Vikings. Ripley received good field position as Elijah Miller returned the punt down to the LC 18-yad line.
A few plays later bruising back Brady Anderson powered the ball into the end zone from 5-yards away and then caught the ensuing two-point try to trim the LCHS lead down to two at 16-14 with 55 seconds to go in the first quarter.
From there on out it was all Panthers as they scored 34 unanswered points in the game.
On the next Lincoln County possession Smith broke free on a run up the middle on the first play and trucked a Viking defender in route to a 62-yard touchdown. The two-point try failed and LCHS took a 22-14 lead with 11:49 to play in the first half.
The LC defense came up big on the ensuing Ripley possession as defensive end Cameron May sacked Stephens on 3rd down to force another Viking punt.
The punt was probably like a déjà vu for Panther fans as Ripley one again punted the ball deep to Smith who then fielded it on a bounced and took it 85 yards to the end zone for his second punt return score. Bates powered across the two-point try and LCHS took the 30-14 lead with 9:14 left in the half.
Smith wasn’t done dominating the first half as on the next Lincoln County possession he lined up at receiver and Bates fired him a perfect deep ball and he took it 80-yards to the endzone for his third score of the game of 80 plus yards. The two-point try was no good as LCHS took the 36-14 lead going into halftime.
Smith hit paydirt for the fifth and final time on the first drive of the second half as he raced in from 22 yards away to cap off what was a career night. Luke Adkins pushed across the two-point try and LC took the 44-14 lead with 7:01 in the third.
He finished the game unofficially with nearly 500 plus all-purpose yards, with 209 of those coming via the rushing game, to go with his five touchdowns.
“That kids a freak athlete,” coach Likens said of Smith after the game. “When he gets loose and out in space that’s what happens. He had some good blocks on those punt returns and then a nice block up front on those trap plays. It was a great game all around for us tonight.”
Bates connected on his third TD pass of the game later in the third quarter as he found Luke Adkins on a 10-yard pass to the corner of the endzone. The kick was no good and the Panthers extended their lead to its largest advantage of 50-14 and set up the running clock.
Ripley added one more score before the end of the contest as Anderson powered across the goal line from one yard away for his second TD of the game. Kaitlyn Lawrence’s extra point was good which made the score 50-21.
Defensively the Panthers were led by Shimp who turned in a game high 19 tackles, including seven solo stops. Dustin Jeffers was next with eight and also recovered a fumble in the win while Luke Adkins and Colin Miller each were credited with seven tackles.
With the loss Ripley fell to 1-2 on the season. They will remain on the road next week as they travel to Ohio to play Marietta High School.
The win for the Panthers was the first since 2010 against Ripley and their second straight win of the season as they improved to 2-1. LCHS will head back on the road this week as they will travel to play Oak Hill. Lincoln County is 0-2 all-time against the Red Devils.