ELLENBORO-It what may have very well been a preview of a Class AA playoff game in November, No. 11 Ritchie County (5-2) overcame a slow start to hand visiting No. 8 Lincoln (5-2) a 44-31 setback Friday night at Chuck Schofield Memorial Stadium.
Struggling to get any kind of consistency on the offensive side of the football following a 43-21 loss at Ravenswood a week ago, the Rebels fell behind 10-0 to a Cougars squad looking to avenge last year's 35-27 loss to the blue and grey.
The hosts were able to slice the deficit to seven, 17-10, thanks to a 22-yard field goal by Orlando Burgy and a 2-yard scoring run by Austin Garrett.
It appeared as if the Rebels would fall deeper in the hole which they had dug for themselves during the first 24 minutes of action when the Cougars recovered the second half opening kickoff at the Ritchie 35.
However, the Rebels' prevent unit rose to the occasion and forced an apparent punt by the Cougars on a fourth-and-11 at the Ritchie 36. A fake punt by Lincoln's Ty Seibel, who finished with 185 yards rushing on 31 carries, came up 1-yard short of the first down marker and proved to be the momentum shifter the hosts were so desparately searching for.
On the next play, Lipscomb, who connected on 8-of-11 attempts for 180 yards, found a streaking Dylan Frye down the left sidelines and the speedy senior outraced the Cougars' secondary for the final 20 yards of a 74-yard touchdown that brought the Rebels back to within one, 17-16, with 9:41 showing on the third quarter clock. Burgy's successful PAT would knot the score.
But, the score would not be tied for long.
A fumble at the Lincoln 27 was recovered by the Rebels' Austin Weekley and three plays later the hosts took the lead when Tyler Reed dashed over from 15-yards out. Burgy would again make good on the PAT and Ritchie held its first lead, 24-17, with 7:39 left in the third quarter.
Lincoln took the ensuing kickoff, however, and marched 65-yards in seven plays with Seibel running the final 37 for his third touchdown of the game with 4:31 on the clock. Emily Knight, who opened the scoring with a 23-yard field goal in the first quarter, made good on the PAT to knot the contest at 24.
That would be the last time the game would be tied as a 1-yard run by Garrett with 1:25 still in the third and a 47-yard run by Lipscomb on the Rebels' first possession of the fourth quarter would be too much for the Cougars to overcome.
Lincoln would slice the margin to six, 37-31, with 2:09 left in the game on Seibel's fourth touchdown of the night. But, Lipscomb would end any hope of a miracle comeback by the visitors when he broke numerous tackles for a 42-yard score on a fourth-and-12 at the Cougars' 42.
Lipsomb finished with 228 yards on 18 carries to go with his passing while Burgy made good on all but one of his PAT to go with his first quarter field goal. Lincoln's Jarrod Keller completed 18-of-32 passes for 255 yards and one interception, but it would not be enough.