SHINNSTON — A program resurrected through a spirited, never-die attitude under first-year coach Shane Eakle through the first five weeks of the season, East Fairmont was finally battered into a state of submission by host Lincoln on Friday.
The Cougars took control of the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and bullied the Bees, scoring 28 unanswered points and outgaining EFHS 226-30 in the second half to earn a crucial 35-13 victory.
The win improves Lincoln to 3-3 on the season heading into their bye week, while East Fairmont falls to 2-3 with a game against winless Philip Barbour next week.
“We just got pushed around,” Eakle said bluntly. “We really had no answer for their run game, which was kind of our concern coming in. They did a nice job up inside and we just couldn’t stop it. When you can’t get off the field, it doesn’t translate into victories.”
The Cougars piled up 266 rush yards on 45 carries, with 172 of those yards coming in a second half that saw Lincoln score touchdowns on three of their first four possessions to bury East Fairmont after heading into halftime with just a 14-13 lead.
Freshmen running backs Antwan Hilliard and Levi Moore guided the Cougars’ offensive attack, with Hilliard rushing for 139 yards, including 100-plus in the second half, and a touchdown, while Moore rushed for 81 yards, caught four passes for 41 more yards and scored three total touchdowns.
The performances by the freshies, along with the road-grading outing by the line of Payton Hawkins, Caleb Trotter, Michael Yost, JR DeFazio and Bobby Bart offset the loss of senior bulldozer Colten Hovermale in the backfield. Hovermale carried five times for 36 yards, but suffered what appeared to be a collarbone injury after a 22-yard run in the second quarter.
“Once Hovermale was done, I thought those two Levi and Antwan did a great job; they both have bright futures,” Lincoln coach Rob Hawkins said of the freshmen backfield duo. “And I thought our offensive line in the second half really did a good job.”
Lincoln leveraged its run game into a handful of play-action rollout opportunities for quarterback David Tate as well, with the junior going 10-of-13 for 140 yards and two TDs with an INT.
“He did a good job managing the game,” Coach Hawkins said of Tate, who delivered the back-breaker for the Bees with 9:28 remaining on a 28-yard TD strike to Zach Snyder on a go route up the left sideline to make it 28-13.
“Any time, you can get the run game going, it makes it tough because we’re probably committing an extra guy to the box and there are a lot more 1-on-1 matchups,” Eakle said of Lincoln’s passing attack. “They threw the ball just enough to kind of keep us at bay.”
The multi-dimensional Lincoln offense had its way throughout the game after a three-and-out on the first series following a pair of tackles for loss by EFHS’s Luke Pollock. The Cougars, who outgained the Bees 406-204, sewed together drives of 72 yards, 59 yards, 35 yards and 79 yards in the first half, with the the former and the latter going for TDs. Then to start the second half, Lincoln ticked off scoring drives that covered 77 yards, 49 yards and 48 yards, with a fourth series covering 33 yards to get to the EFHS 2 yard-line before a Bees’ goal line stand that ended in an Alex Vincent INT on fourth-and-goal.
The pick by Vincent, which came on Lincoln’s second drive of the second half, was the third time EFHS forced a turnover on downs, a footnote that was largely responsible for keeping the contest as competitive for as long as it was.
Well, that and Aiden Slusser.
The first-year senior wideout continued his electric season thus far, with another detonation as he finished the night with 130 yards on four catches to go with a pair of TDs that covered 36 and 67 yards.
The 36-yard TD answered Lincoln’s opening score via a 5-yard run by Moore. Facing a third-and-17, EFHS quarterback Dom Postlewait dropped back and uncorked a deep ball to Slusser on a go route in which he simply blew the top off the Lincoln secondary.
Then midway through the second quarter, Slusser charred Lincoln again by turning on the burners as he took a bubble screen and raced 67 yards untouched for a TD.
But from that point, East’s offense evaporated as the Bees finished the night with minus-14 rush yards. Postlewait went 12-for-21 for 218 yards with two TDs and an INT through the air, but his contributions with his legs, a weapon for EFHS through four games, were mitigated by a Lincoln front that overpowered EFHS’s undersized line.
“We didn’t do a very good up front and they pushed us around. They were in our backfield all night,” Eakle said of Lincoln, which had six tackles for loss and five sacks. “We had no time to do anything — run, pass, anything.
“That’s probably the worst we’ve been beat up front (this season).”
Lincoln senior Cody Griffith had a party in the EFHS backfield all night as he tallied two sacks and three other tackles for loss.
“I thought our defensive line did a great job, and I want to mention Cody Griffith — he had a tremendous game and was disruptive in their backfield the whole game,” Coach Hawkins said.
Austin Bradley tallied another 1.5 sacks and Wyatt Howes had a sack as well. The Cougars also got a Colton Talkington interception to set up Moore’s opening TD and a fumble recovery by Hawkins that led to another score.
For the Bees, the two turnovers and 11 negative plays allowed were just the beginning of their self-inflicted damage as EFHS also committed 10 penalties for 100 yards. Several of those calls left the EFHS sideline exasperated and it reached a boiling point early in the fourth quarter when a mini brawl broke out between the two teams following an EFHS kickoff return. The altercation resulted in three personal fouls and four total ejections, three of which were EFHS players. Per WVSSAC rules, all four ejected players will have to sit out their team’s next game.
“That’s tough because it’s additional adversity,” Eakle said of the infractions. “A couple of times we responded OK with it, but eventually we started breaking.”
Email Bradley Heltzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bradheltzTWV.
Lincoln 35, East Fairmont 13
LN 0 0 0 0 — 35
EF 0 0 0 0 — 13
Records: Lincoln (3-3), East Fairmont (2-3)
LN — Levi Moore 5-yard run (Ryan Leep kick)
EF — Dom Postlewait 36-yard pass to Aiden Slusser (Slusser kick)
EF — Postlewait 67-yard pass to Slusser (Kick blocked)
LN — David Tate 14-yard pass to Moore (Leep kick)
LN — Moore 9-yard run (Leep kick)
LN — Tate 28-yard pass to Zach Snyder (Leep kick)
LN — Antwan Hilliard 24-yard run (Leep kick)
TEAM STATISTICS LN EF
Total first downs 20 8
by rush/pass/penalty 12/7/1 2/5/1
Rushing plays 45 23
net yards 266 -14
yards per rush 5.9 -0.6
Passes (comp/att/Int) 10/13/1 12/21/1
yards passing 140 218
Total plays 58 44
net yards 406 204
yards per play 7.0 4.6
Penalties/yards 5/60 10/100
RUSHING — Lincoln: Hilliard 20-139 TD, Moore 10-81 2 TD, Colten Hovermale 5-36, Tate 5-6, Nick Kellar 1-8, Brian Davisson 2-4, TEAM 2-(-8). East Fairmont: Luke Pollock 3-7, Will Sarsfield 4-3, Postlewait 16-(-24).
PASSING — Lincoln: Tate 10-13, 140 yards, 2 TD, INT. East Fairmont: Postlewait 12-21, 218 yards, 2 TD, INT.
RECEIVING — Lincoln: Snyder 3-66 TD, Moore 4-41 TD, Corey Prunty 3-33. East Fairmont: Slusser 4-130 2 TD, Joel Myers 5-52, Adam Earls 1-19, Sarsfield 1-10, Alex Culp 1-7.