Bibb County wears down Linden

CENTREVILLE — After 48 minutes of hard-nosed physical play, Bibb County (5-0, 3-0) remained perfect while avoiding  a potentially surprising Linden (3-2, 3-0) upset bid with a 30-20 victory Friday night.

From the opening kick, Linden looked like a team possessed as it played with the tenacity that can only be seen in the world of high school athletics. The Patriots resolve, however, would prove flexible at the hands of a Bibb County team packed with size and numbers.

The Patriots sent their defense on the field first looking to set the tone early. They did just that, forcing a quick three-and-out. Their offense would then follow suit with a nice looking drive capped off by a seven-yard touchdown run from Terrance Sanders on a speed-sweep with 8:28 remaining in the opening quarter. After a missed PAT, the Pats led 6-0.

Unable to get anything going against Linden’s defense, Bibb County was again forced to punt. Not wanting to fall behind two possessions right out of the gate, the Choctaws’ defense would step up by deflecting a Patriot pass at the line of scrimmage, causing an interception just two plays into Linden’s following drive. Bibb County found itself inside the red zone with a chance to tie or take the lead. The Choctaw did just that three plays later when Terry Lockett Jr. connected with Rashawn Heard for a 15-yard touchdown pass. And after a failed PAT, the score stayed at 6-6.

The remainder of the first half belonged to Linden as it got what any underdog team needs in the form of big plays. The Patriots’ defense stepped up, forcing two turnovers on downs, one of which came by way of a goal line stand. Senior receiver Kynard Craig would then show his versatility and athleticism when he took a little slip-screen pass 79 yards to the house giving Linden the lead back with 7:33 left before half.

Craig wasn’t near done however. Three plus minutes later, he picked off a Bibb County pass, returning it all the way back to the Choctaw 16 yard line. Devontae Knox would improve on Linden’s lead after going in untouched from nine yards out, and just like that the score was 20-8 in Linden’s favor with 3:32 left before the break.

Bibb County would not give in. It used the remaining minutes of the opening half to put together a drive that culminated in another touchdown pass from Lockett to Heard. It was the first “bone-head” mistake by the Patriots’ defense as their secondary let Heard get behind them with only 18 seconds left. The two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful and the score was 20-14 in Linden’s favor entering intermission.

The second half was all about defensive intensity. Both teams came out of the break with their chinstraps buckled, ready for action. The first six possessions saw six punts with five three-and-outs. It was evident that the victory would most likely fall in the hands of the team who could sustain the physicality more through four quarters.

Bibb County would take the lead back right before the fourth quarter after forcing a big play of its own. Deszmond Kersh intercepted Charleston’s pass and proceeded to return it 20-plus yards before being knocked out of bounds inside the Patriots’ seven-yard line. T.J. Lockett scored two plays later on a quarterback sneak, and after Terry Bell converted on the two-point attempt. Bibb County held a lead 22-20 heading into the final quarter.

Linden could not answer on its next possession and was forced to punt the ball back to the Choctaws. Bibb County would set up shop on its own 25 yard line with 10:25 left to go in the ballgame. The Choctaws then used their depth and size to wear down their opponent with an inexhaustible drive that lasted close to seven minutes, a span in which Bibb County controlled the clock, tempo, and ultimately the outcome of the game. The drive was capped off by another quarterback sneak and after another successful two-point conversion, the score was 30-20 with 4:10 remaining, all but confirming their sixth straight victory.

“I like our football team. I like the battle and the fight in them they showed tonight,” Linden coach Andro Williams said following his team’s loss. “We needed a game like this. We’ve got to do a better job of closing games out, but I like our football team and the effort they played with tonight.”

Linden will look to get back on the winning track next week when it travels to A.L. Johnson to resume region play.