Lincoln County has handed Lebanon plenty of season-ending heartbreak in playoffs past.
The Falcons turned Clifton Tribble Field/Danny Watkins Stadium into a regular-season heartbreak hotel Friday night after overcoming a 10-point deficit in the final four minutes to stun the Blue Devils 26-25 on Logan Wheat's 25-yard field goal with seven seconds to play.
A loss is a loss, Lebanon coach Sam Harp said one like this is more painful than others.
"There's no excuse for it, to be honest with you," Harp said. "The players are playing hard, there's no question about that. They're just not playing smart and we're not getting the job done in the kicking game. We worked extremely hard this week and it's still not paying off for us. We just got to keep working on it and the only thing I know to do when things don't go well is you just got to go back and keep pushing and keep working on it.
"I've never quit at anything in my life and I don't want these kids to have a defeatist attitude. We got to line back up and got to play next week and it doesn't get any easier."
The Blue Devils bounced back from a slow start which saw them fall behind quickly 9-0 as Taye Davis ran for a 2-yard touchdown and Christian Haffner a 1-yard quarterback sneak for a go-ahead score in the second quarter.
Lincoln County suffered four turnovers, including three fumbles. Dyllon Bohanon's recovery near midfield led to Haffner's 23-yard scoring flip to Karlton Bruton in the final minute of the first half for a 19-9 Lebanon lead at the break.
The Falcons climbed back into the game with Josh Whitaker's 7-yard scoring sweep to draw within 19-16 late in the third quarter.
But Keller Monks' pass was deflected by Lebanon defensive end Bryon Williams and intercepted by defensive back Eddie McDaniels, setting Bruton up for a 5-yard scoring run for a 25-16 lead with just over 10 minutes to play.
Lebanon also received fumble recoveries from linebacker Bruton and tackle Coleton Thomas, but couldn't capitalize.
Lincoln County drove 80 yards, including 38 on Whitaker's double reverse to the 22. A personal foul on Lebanon [one of 11 penalties totaling 102 yards] moved the ball to the 11, from where Ryan Golden scored to bring the visitors within 25-23 with 3:48 to play.
Haffner was sacked by defensive end T.J. Crabtree for a 9-yard loss on third down, forcing Lebanon to punt.
A block-in-the-back penalty negated most of a long runback by Whitaker. But Lincoln County scooted downfield anyway on runs by Golden and August Hill to reach the 8, from where Wheat came on and split the upright to send the Falcons back to Fayetteville 2-2.
Monks found Whitaker on a 54-yard fade down the left sideline for a 7-0 Lincoln lead less than four minutes into the game.
Lebanon was flagged for an illegal formation and a 24-yard holding call deep in the backfield. A third-down snap sailed over Haffner's head and Davis tracked the ball in the end zone where he was tackled by Jack Cooter for a safety.
Davis led Lebanon with 83 yards in 17 carries before exiting in the second half with cramps. Bruton came in and banged away for 68 on 15 rushes. Haffner hit 9 of 11 passes for 68 yards.
In addition to Davis, the Devils were hit by other injuries.
"The injury bug is still hitting us," Harp said. "We lost [lineman] Isaiah Moore in the first half, he broke his foot. Dyllon Bohanon hurt his ankle, I don't know how bad that is yet. Taye Davis still can't stay away from the cramps. The kid's trying hard but for some reason is body's just not letting him finish."
The schedule will get no easier for the Blue Devils, who will welcome a talented Station Camp team to Tribble Field at 7 p.m. next Friday as District 9-AAA action resumes.
"We got to learn from this and just move on," Harp said. "I said when I first got here and I say it now and tell the kids there are going to be peaks and valleys every game. There are going to be peaks and valleys every season. You just got to learn to not stay down in that valley. You got to stay fighting and get up."
Lincoln County 26, Lebanon 25
Lincoln County 9 0 7 10—26
Lebanon 6 13 0 6—25
Lincoln County — Josh Whitaker 54 pass from Keller Monks [Logan Wheat kick], 8:02.
Lincoln County — Safety, Jack Cooter tackles runner in end zone, 6:01.
Lebanon — Taye Davis 2 run [kick failed], 1:17.
Lebanon — Christian Haffner 1 run [kick failed], 8:03.
Lebanon — Karlton Bruton 23 pass from Haffner [Cameron Harris kick], :57.
Lincoln County — Whitaker 7 run [Wheat kick], 2:39.
Lebanon — Bruton 5 run [kick blocked], 10:06.
Lincoln County — Ryan Golden 11 run [Wheat kick], 3:48.
Lincoln County — Wheat 25 FG, :07.
Lincoln County Lebanon
First downs 15 15
—Rushing 10 13
—Passing 3 2
—Penalty 2 0
Rushes-yards 42-215 41-147
Passing yards 97 68
Comp.-Att.-Int. 5-14-1 9-11-0
Total yards 312 215
Punts-avg. 3-15 6-35.2
Penalties-yards 7-74 11-102
Fumbles lost 3 0
RUSHING — Lincoln County: Josh Whitaker 2-45, Ryan Golden 15-77, August Hill 16-67, Dre Dollar 1-3, Keller Marks 4-4, Jack Cooter 2-11, Tanner Gardner 1-4, Tyler Bennett 1-4. Lebanon: Taye Davis 17-83, Christian Haffner 7-[-7], Karlton Bruton 15-68, Adam Hokanson 2-2.
PASSING — Lincoln County: Keller Monks 5-14-1-97. Lebanon: Christian Haffner 9-11-0-68.
RECEIVING — Lincoln County: Josh Whitaker 2-54, August Hill 2-26, Brandon Gower 1-17. Lebanon: Julian Crutchfield 3-37, J'Quan Jackson 2-3, Eddie McDaniels 1-7, Karlton Bruton 2-19, Harley Drennon 1-2.