Lincoln High School’s football squad scored 27 unanswered points and defeated Handley 34-30 on Friday night at Wright Field in Roanoke.
With the win, Lincoln clinched a playoff berth for the second straight season and broke a tie with Handley for sole possession of first place in Class 4A, Region 4.
Lincoln head coach Matt Zedaker made it clear to his team he thought the Golden Bears could make a second-half comeback if they were able to clean up their mistakes on both sides of the ball.
“As bad as we played in the first half, it was close to being a two-score game,” Zedaker said. “We knew if we could stop (them) and get a score, we would be right back in it.
“We had to believe and stop making stupid plays, quit turning the ball over and making penalities. Go out and play like the defending region champion.
“They bought it and they did. We got a stop right when we came out and scored. It was on, we got the momentum and we never let up. Coach (Skylar) Mansfield came up with a really good game plan (at halftime) to stop what was hurting us on the inside with the sweep. The defense came out and shut them out in the second half, and the offense put up the points to go ahead. It was a great high school football game.”
Zedaker described the matchup with Handley as a prize fight earlier in the week. Well, in the first half, the Tigers had the Golden Bears on the ropes.
Devontae Houston had touchdown runs of 35, 8, 3 and 8 yards to help Handley take a 30-13 lead into intermission.
Lincoln finally got things going offensively in the second quarter as it scored 13 points. Keyshon Townsend scored on a 12-yard run to make it 23-7.
After Houston scored for the fourth time in the half, Lincoln’s Javion Surles connected with Brian Garrett for a 20-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 30-13.
Lincoln's defensive unit set the tone in the third period, forcing Handley to punt for the first time to open the half.
The Golden Bears’ offense took advantage of the opportunity. Surles connected with Garrett for a 57-yard touchdown to cut Handley’s advantage to 30-20.
After the Golden Bears forced another three-and-out, Surles led Lincoln on a 51-yard drive he capped off by scoring from 2 yards out to cut the lead to 30-27.
In the fourth quarter, Surles put the Golden Bears up for the first time in the game on a 30-yard run on a zone-read to give Lincoln a 34-30 edge with 11:10 left.
Later in the quarter, the Golden Bears marched down the field trying to increase their advantage, but Surles was stripped after making a run for a first down at the Handley 38-yard line.
Houston, who rushed for 226 yards for the game, was quiet for much of the second half, but he made his presence felt at wildcat quarterback. The senior made several big runs to get the Tigers down to the Lincoln 16.
But the Golden Bears’ defense was able to step up and get a stop. On fourth-and-3 at the 16, quarterback Evan Coefield’s pass to Nathan Pike was dropped to give Lincoln the football back.
The Golden Bears needed a first down to seal the win. On third-and-8 from their own 20, Surles connected with Garrett for a 24-yard completion.
Surles led the way for Lincoln. The senior signal-caller threw for 230 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 99 yards and a pair of scores.
Garrett had five catches for 156 yards and two scores, while Tre Garrett made three catches for 72 yards.
Defensively, Anthony Gallimore and Kendrick Truss recovered fumbles for the Golden Bears.
Lincoln returns home to take on county/region foe Childersburg on Friday at 7 p.m.
Handley will host Talladega on Friday at 7 p.m.