The Letcher County Central Cougars fell 28- 21 to Lincoln County in a first round KHSAA 5A playoff matchup.
LCC received the ball first and quickly went three and out and were forced to punt. Lincoln County had great field position and quickly capitalized when senior running back Deon Shannon took a pitch 17 yards for a touchdown. The extra point was made and the Patriots led 7-0 with 8:13 left in the first quarter.
The Cougars answered on their next offensive play. Chris Tyree took a swing pass from quarterback Logan Johnson and broke free for an 80-yard score. Sidney Fields connected on the extra point to tie the game at 7-7.
The LCC special teams unit made a great play on the kick coverage and the Patriots’ return specialist was tackled on his own 12-yard line. The subsequent ball control drive took more than six minutes off the clock and went 88 yards on 12 plays. During the drive Lincoln County converted three straight third downs all through the air, even though they had come into the contest only averaging 108 yards passing per game. Quarterback Ryan Otto ran an option play to perfection and pitched to Shannon right before he got hit. Shannon walked into the end zone from nine yards out and Lincoln County had retaken the lead 14-7 with 1:44 left in the first quarter.
The Letcher Central offense had its second three and out of the game and tried a pass on every offensive play of the first quarter. Shannon took a pitch 21 yards to get into Cougar territory. On third and 12 Otto found receiver Cameron Honaker for a 16-yard touchdown to make the score 21-7 in favor of the Patriots.
Lincoln County inexplicably tried an onside kick and LCC recovered it at midfield. Logan Johnson gained 11 yards on the first Cougar rushing attempt of the game. They could get no farther and were forced to punt. Sidney Fields got hit while punting and the roughing the kicker penalty gave the Cougars an automatic first down. Logan Johnson then ran a quarterback draw up the middle and he juked and jived his way to a 25-yard touchdown. The extra point was no good but LCC had cut the lead to 21-13 with 5:14 left in the first half.
On third and two, Shannon was tackled for a loss by Chris Tyree and Lincoln County was forced to punt for the first time in the game. The Cougars took over and what ensued was one of the strangest calls ever. LCC ran an option play, but running back Drew Bentley could not handle the pitch from Johnson and the fumble was recovered by Lincoln County. After minutes of deliberation the offi- cials gave the ball back to Letcher Central without explanation and the Cougars took advantage of the fortunate ruling. Johnson found receiver Corey Dollarhide on a seam route for a 30-yard gain. On third and goal Bentley dove for the end zone but was stopped just short. The Cougars went for it on fourth down and Johnson scored on a sneak. Johnson also scored on a two-point conversion and LCC had tied the score 21-21 at halftime.
In the first half, Logan Johnson completed five passes on 13 attempts for 122 yards and a touchdown. Johnson also ran the ball five times for 49 yards and a score. Corey Dollarhide had three receptions for 31 yards and Chris Tyree had one reception for 80 yards and a touchdown.
Lincoln County running back Deon Shannon carried the ball an astonishing 18 times in the first half for 111 yards and two touchdowns.
The Patriots started the second half with possession and were forced to punt when sophomore Nick Mullins sacked Otto on third down. LCC went three and out and gave the ball right back to Lincoln County. Senior linebacker Sidney Fields intercepted Otto in the next series to give the Cougars great field position. The Cougars eventually went for it on fourth down in the red zone and didn’t convert.
Lincoln County used another ball control drive to get deep into Cougar territory. The Patriots tried a 35-yard field goal attempt but it was just short and with 11:07 left in the game the score was still tied at 21.
Then came the turning point of the game. Out of shotgun formation a bad snap hit Johnson in the foot and the mishandled ball was recovered by the Patriots at the LCC 25-yard line. Shannon eventually scored from one-yard out for his third touchdown of the game to put Lincoln County up 28-21 with 7:13 left in the fourth quarter.
The Letcher Central offense was out of sync again and LCC was forced to punt. Shannon made an unbelievable run for a 70-yard score that, luckily for the Cougars, was called back because of a penalty. Facing a first and 21, Otto found Honaker wide open for a 36-yard gain into Cougar territory with 1:36 left in the game. Without any timeouts left Letcher Central watched as Lincoln County took a knee to win by a final score of 28-21.
Letcher Central ended the season with a record of four wins and seven losses. Logan Johnson completed just one pass in the second half and the offense simply was out of rhythm the whole game. The defense played one of its best games of the year, led by Sidney Fields who had three tackles for loss, a sack and an interception. The Cougars are losing 14 seniors who played their hearts out for four years and will be difficult to replace.