The Golden Bears (4-4) also struck a big blow in the Class 4A, Region 5 race. Lincoln and Alexandria entered this one in a four-way for second place with Cleburne County and Jacksonville. Lincoln is now 4-2 in the region, while Alexandria is 3-3 with a game against Jacksonville next week.
“We knew if we started doing things right that we would be a good football team at the end,” Lincoln coach Brad Wallace said. “Those guys in that room are the ones making this happen. We’re going out and coaching them every day, but they’re absorbing all of it.”
While Alexandria (3-5) struggled to move the ball in the first half, the Golden Bears took advantage on two scoring drives, capped off by big defensive lineman Jaunta’vius Johnson’s running ability.
After the Valley Cubs went three-and-out on their opening drive, Lincoln traveled 30 yards before the large Johnson ran around several Alexandria players and easily into the end zone.
Johnson was back in the end zone late in the first quarter, as well, finishing a 92-yard drive with a 4-yard run.
“I don’t think he’s been stopped yet. He’s kind of like our Refrigerator Perry,” Wallace said. “We know when we give him the ball he’s going to get it in the end zone. That’s nice to have, especially out of a big boy.”
The first time Alexandria was able to move the ball came on its ensuing drive just before halftime. However, the Valley Cubs race against the clock and forced a 33-yard field goal, which was unsuccessful.
“We look at it as if it’s a baseball game, we’re only down two runs,” Alexandria coach Frank Tucker said. “We don’t look at it as 14 points. We thought we were still in the ballgame.”
With that mindset, Alexandria drove the ball straight down the field while taking 5:08 off the clock in its second drive of the third quarter.
Alexandria matched its total of four first downs on the scoring drive alone. After Alton Davis ran for 21 yards to the 1-yard line, he scored a play later.
“That’s who we are,” Tucker said about the drive. “We just couldn’t put enough drives together.”
With the Valley Cubs down 14-6, after the extra point attempt was blocked, the celebration in the visiting stands didn’t last long.
After Lincoln nearly lost the ensuing kickoff, the Golden Bears traveled 46 yards before Jamario Howard made the play that Wallace saw as the turning point in the game.
Howard took the handoff from Mason McClean, running even with the offensive line before making a move and bolting down the left sideline. He didn’t stop until he reached the end zone.
“That was very big. It got our guys back focused in the game,” Wallace said. “We’ve been talking about we’ve had a lull right at the beginning of the second half, but we fought through it tonight. Yeah, they scored, but then we opened our eyes up and got back in the ballgame.”
Alexandria turned the ball over on downs on its ensuing possession, which translated into Johnson’s third touchdown of the game, this one from 10 yards out.
Alexandria added a touchdown in the final minutes of the game, a 10-yard touchdown pass from Luke Tucker to Derrik Turner.
Tucker finished the night with 59 yards through the air and 88 yards on the ground. Davis led Alexandria with 90 yards on 16 carries. C.J. Swink caught two passes for 35 yards.
For Lincoln, McClean finished with 78 yards passing. Howard led the team in rushing with 120 yards, and Jalen Turner added 74.
Lincoln’s win improved its hopes of finishing in the top two in the region, which would guarantee a home game in the playoffs’ first round. For Alexandria, a win against Jacksonville next week is a must if the Valley Cubs want to play past Week 10.
“We’ve still got one more game and still have a chance to make the playoffs,” Tucker said. “That’s what we’re shooting for. If they can’t get up for next week then they don’t need to be playing football. It’s a rivalry game and it has playoff implications. That’s a big deal.”
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star