SUMMERSVILLE, W.Va. — Leading 17-0 midway through the third quarter, it appeared that the Lincoln Cougars were well on their way to a fourth victory in four games to start the season. However, Nicholas County forced the Cougars to win the game with their defense in the final minute.
No. 9 Lincoln allowed 16 unanswered points in the final 17 minutes of the game but a two-point conversion stop preserved a 17-16 win for the Cougars.
Coleton Hellems’ 17-yard touchdown run with 56 seconds left brought Nicholas County within a point. The Grizzlies lined up to tie the game with a PAT attempt. Lincoln head coach Rob Hawkins called timeout prior to the try.
After the timeout, Nicholas County went for a two-point conversion to take the lead. Lincoln’s defense snuffed out the rushing attempt to preserve the lead and the victory. The Cougars recovered the ensuing onside kick attempt and ran out the clock.
“I wasn’t expecting them to go for two,” Hawkins said. “We wanted to try to block it. We fell like we have a pretty good extra point block. We don’t use it every play. We wanted to make sure they knew what they were doing. We they came out to go for two, I had nightmares that I made the wrong decision in trying to set up for the block. Luckily, the defense stepped up and they were able to stop them.”
Defenses dominated in a scoreless first quarter. The Cougars found success through the air in the second quarter. Sophomore quarterback AJ Bart tossed a pair of touchdown passes in the frame to Maddox Perine [19 yards] and Brayden Edgell [15 yards]. Lincoln led 14-0 at halftime.
“We had them on their heels. They were switching up defenses. We had answers for what they were doing there.”
A Liam Gallagher 24-yard field goal extended the Cougars’ lead to 17-0 midway through the third quarter. Nicholas County answered with three scoring drives. Jaxson Morriston’s 6-yard touchdown tote brought the Grizzlies within 17-7 at the end of the third quarter.
Johan Villasenor’s 27-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter cut the Nicholas deficit to 17-10.
“We got tired,” Hawkins said. “This is the first time we had to play four quarters. And I have a lot of guys playing two ways. They got a good taste of what to is going to be like with North Marion coming up and some of the other teams on our schedule. We needed a game to play four quarters. Now I didn’t need a nail biter like this. But the bus ride home will be a lot shorter. I can promise you that.”
With the victory, Lincoln became the first team in the state to reach the 4-0 mark. Each of the last four meetings between these two schools have been decided by eight points or less.
“I think we match up well. They are an extremely well-coached team. [Gene Morris] has an extremely young team but he has them playing very hard and he has them playing extremely well. They are very good at what they do.”
Nicholas County fell to 1-3. Their three losses have come by a total of six points.
NCHS captains displayed a Midland Trail No. 66 jersey during the opening coin toss. The jersey was presented in memory of MTHS sophomore Damon Mooney, who was killed in a car accident on Tuesday.