Lincoln’s litmus test

If you want to take the temperature of Lincoln County’s football season, you need look no further than the Patriots’ annual game with Rockcastle County.

In the seven years since these neighbors renewed their rivalry, Rockcastle has always provided a stern test, and the result of this game has almost always been a pretty good indicator of how Lincoln’s season turned out. Here’s a breakdown:

  • 2000: The Death Valley Bowl brought the two teams together for the first time in 16 years. Rockcastle was building a team that would reach the state finals in ’01 and ’02, but Lincoln held its own in a 24-14 loss that began a 6-5 season.
  • 2001-03: These were dark days for Lincoln, which had a three-year record of 7-23. And the Patriots were clearly outclassed by Rockcastle, which won 51-0, 42-0 and 64-0.
  • 2004: The series survived those blowouts and became competitive once again in the Pats’ first season under Larry French. Lincoln suffered a heartbreaking 18-13 loss when the Rockets scored with no time remaining. It was one of seven losses that fall, but it was also an indication of what was possible in the rejuvenated Lincoln program.
  • 2005: This game was the only aberration of the bunch, because the Pats played poorly in a 31-8 road loss. But they played poorly on other occasions in that season, when they went 5-5 and just missed the playoffs.
  • 2006: It was only fitting that Lincoln got rid of this particular monkey in week three, because the Patriots went on to a 10-2 season that was their best in 12 years.

The Rockcastle team that Lincoln plays tonight in Mount Vernon might not appear to be as strong as those of the past seven years, but the Rockets are still a formidable foe in a tough environment. And even though this game is a little bit later in the year than the other meetings, it should still be a good way to get a reading on where the Patriots might be headed.

* * *

With that comes the weekly picks, where I once again grumble about not being able to figure out Mercer County. I’m back to picking the Titans and backing all but one local team this week. My list includes Lincoln, which I think will gut out a tough road win:

  • Danville over Campbellsville.
  • Frankfort over Garrard County.
  • Lincoln County over Rockcastle County.
  • Casey County over Adair County.
  • Mercer County over Watertown (Tenn.).

Last week: 4-1. For the season: 20-7 (.741).

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