By Shannon J. Allen/Sand Mountain Reporter
A terrific night by the Sardis offense was offset by a Lion defensive unit that couldn’t stop Lincoln last Friday (Nov. 9).
The host Golden Bears built a 14-0 halftime advantage and withstood Sardis’ second-half aerial assault in a 49-34 triumph in the opening round of the Class 4A state playoffs.
Lincoln (6-5) broke a three-game losing streak as it advanced to a second-round matchup at Madison County (10-1).
The Lions dropped their last four games of the season and finished 6-5.
Sardis junior quarterback Will Scott passed for a career-high 350 yards and five touchdowns, with all five TDs in the second half. He was 25-of-38 for the game.
Kailon Robeson had eight receptions for 141 yards and a score, while Seth Smith hauled in six passes for 135 yards and a TD.
Lions’ star halfback Toby Pee closed his stellar prep career by rushing 21 times for 183 yards and catching eight passes for 55 yards and two scores. Pee scored a Sardis single-season record 38 touchdowns.
Lincoln built its 14-0 advantage on the strength of Chance Byrd touchdown passes of 38 and 34 yards to Zavian Caldwell.
Sardis turned it over on downs at Lincoln’s 13-yard line in the first half. Late in the second period, the Lions reached the Lincoln 16 before time expired.
Pee returned the second-half kickoff 43 yards to the Sardis 46-yard line, setting up the Lions’ first scoring drive that Scott capped with a 17-yard TD pass to Pee, who broke a pair of tackles inside the 10 with 8:12 left in the third period.
Tredarian Gamble, who scored three times in the second half for Lincoln, returned the kickoff 45 yards to the Sardis 37.
The Golden Bears scored with 4:54 left, increasing their advantage to 21-6.
Pee ripped off gains of 44 and 17 yards on Sardis’ next drive. Scott found Pee for a 6-yard TD pass with 2:16 remaining, cutting it to 21-12.
Pee made a tremendous one-handed, leaping catch in traffic for the score.
Lincoln answered with an 11-yard TD run by Gamble, making it 28-12 with 47.5 seconds on the clock.
The Golden Bears intercepted Scott on the first play of the fourth quarter. The hosts took over at their 19 and drove 81 yards, with Gamble scoring on a 10-yard run with 10:43 left in the game. The score extended Lincoln’s margin to 35-12.
Pee returned the kickoff 34 yards to his 40. Sardis capitalized on the excellent field position, as Scott connected with Robeson on a 30-yard TD pass with 9:29 to go.
Scott passed to Jared Shirley for two points, cutting it to 35-20.
Lincoln recovered Sardis’ onside kickoff, and Gamble ran seven yards for a touchdown with 7:05 to play, giving the Golden Bears a 42-20 cushion.
The Lions answered in less than a minute, as Scott rifled a 26-yard touchdown pass to Dexter McKinney at the 6:24 mark.
Scott threw to Shirley for two points, trimming it to 42-28.
Lincoln decided to go for it on fourth-and-four from the Sardis 45. With the Lions expecting a running play, Devonte Peeler slipped behind the secondary and grabbed a 45-yard TD pass from Byrd with 4:07 left.
Sardis responded with Scott’s 52-yard scoring pass to Smith, who caught the ball down the middle, broke two tackles and sprinted into the end zone, making it 49-34.
Scott threw to Smith for two points, but offsetting penalties wiped out the conversion. Scott then threw incomplete after the penalties.
The Lions made their seventh playoff appearance in eight years, including both of Gene Hill’s seasons as head coach.