Dallas County at Lincoln: No. 7 Golden Bears use last season’s playoff disappointment as motivation

Looking to advance

Chorion Kelly and the Golden Bears will look to advance past the first round for the first time since 2016.

No. 7-ranked Lincoln hosts Dallas County in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs tonight at Keith Howard Memorial Stadium.

The Golden Bears enter the postseason as one of the hottest teams in 4A. Lincoln is on a five-game winning streak, which includes a thrilling 38-34 win over Montevallo to close out the regular season last week.

Dallas County (4-6) is the fourth seed in Region 3. The Hornets have lost three of their last four games going into the playoffs which included a 35-30 loss to Elmore County.

This is the first matchup between the programs.

Here are four things to watch going into tonight’s game.

Unfinished business

The Golden Bears fell in the first round of the playoffs last season to Alabama Christian, 18-14, on the final play of the game. 

That heartbreaking defeat has stayed with the Golden Bears for the past year. Lincoln has used it as motivation throughout the season.

“We have been talking about it all year, we have been talking about it all summer,” Coach Matt Zedaker said. “2.6 (seconds) has been ingrained into their minds. That’s how close we were to going to the second round, and we missed by one play. We got ourselves in position to have that opportunity again and make sure we get it right this time.”

Cleaning up mistakes

Lincoln was able to overcome a five-turnover performance to defeat Montevallo last week. Quarterback Javion Surles led the Golden Bears down the field for the game-winning score. Zedaker hopes they got all the turnovers out of their system.

“To be able to win with five turnovers is crazy,” Zedaker said. “We talked about it all week. When you get in these types of games, you have to take care of the ball. If you don’t, usually that will get you beat and you will be crying at the end of the game.”

Cardiac Bears

For the second time in the second half of the season last week, Lincoln overcame a double-digit deficit to earn a victory. Lincoln rallied from a 30-7 deficit to defeat Handley 34-30 in October to put the Golden Bears in position to win the region.

Zedaker said his players do not panic when they are down, they just make corrections and battle their way back into games

“It is probably a culmination of the three years that this senior class has been with me from their sophomore year to their senior year,” Zedaker said. “People forget in our 1-9 season (in 2017) how close we were in some of those games, and most of this senior class was playing then.

“Last year, they turned the page and won some tight games. This year, it is the confidence they have with the exception of the two blemishes on our record. 

“We get in there for halftime, make some adjustments and talk about the things we have done well and not done well. They get them corrected. That’s the sign of a very mature team and a senior-led team that believes that are in every game that they play.”

Trending in the right direction

Zedaker has been pleased with the way his team has played in the second half of the season. The coach believes if Lincoln can put together a complete game, it has the potential to make a postseason run.

“We feel pretty good about where we are at as a team heading into the playoffs,” Zedaker said. “As a coach and as a coaching staff, you want to be peaking at the right time. 

“With the expectation of last week with all the turnovers, we played a really good game. We have to correct some things special team-wise. We gave up a long touchdown last week, so we have worked hard on that this week. 

“I feel confident in what we can do defensively and offensively to Dallas County. We have to execute and jump on them early. We have to start fast. That has been one of the things where we have or we haven’t in this second half of the season. It took a minute to get going last week. If we can play as well for two halves as we do in the second half, we will be a tough out.”