Last stand in the Valley

It was 13 Fridays ago that the Lincoln County Patriots charged onto their Death Valley field for the first time. And there was no reason to believe on that August night that the Patriots would be back there tonight, racing past cheerleaders and other fans on their way to one more game on their home turf.

Lincoln’s 31-7 loss to Bell County in its season opener Aug. 24 was the only false echo in a surprisingly brilliant season in the Valley, one that no one could have seen coming even before the Patriots took a beating from Bell.

Now comes one last home game and the chance for Lincoln to move into the final four in the Class 5A playoffs with a win in tonight’s quarterfinal game against Johnson Central. This game will look nothing like Lincoln’s season opener, with the temperature some 60 degrees lower and the Patriots heating up seemingly week after week.

Things get tough when you get this deep into the playoffs. Every opponent is good, and every game could be the one that ends it all. Johnson Central is one of the best teams Lincoln has seen, but several weeks ago I became a believer in the Patriots and their ability to do things we didn’t think they would be capable of this season.

So I’m betting Lincoln’s last home game will be much more successful than the first, and that the Patriots will make it to the semifinals of their class for the fourth time in school history.

It’s the only game to pick this week, so it’s all or nothing. And it’s no gimme, either, but I’ll take:

  • Lincoln County over Johnson Central.

Last week: 3-1. For the season: 46-17 (.730).

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