For Lincoln, that shift began with a Piedmont touchdown 28 seconds before the end of the first half. As the third quarter rolled in, the undertow swept the Golden Bears away.
Three Golden Bear turnovers, paired with three Piedmont touchdowns in the third quarter, proved to be the difference as Lincoln fell to the Bulldogs 41-22 in a non-region battle on Friday.
The loss was Lincoln’s third in as many weeks after starting the season 5-2.
Both teams’ playoff destinies are set. Piedmont (10-0), which captured its second straight undefeated regular season, will host J.B. Pennington (4-6) on Friday to open the Class 3A state playoffs. The Golden Bears (5-5) host Sardis (6-4) in the opening round of the Class 4A playoffs.
Piedmont used a long pass to set a short run on its first possession to take an early 7-0 lead just 63 seconds into the game. Early in the second, Lincoln cracked the scoreboard, but trailed 7-6.
And while no one knew then, the Golden Bears’ scoreless drought had started.
Piedmont added two more touchdowns before halftime. One came on a 2-yard run from Exavyer Jackson. The second of the second quarter came the same way as the first – a long pass setting up a short run. This time, it was Jackson again from 1 yard out with just 28 ticks left in the half to make it 20-6.
A two-touchdown lead is never insurmountable – especially as the Golden Bears were set to receive the second-half kickoff.
But while the margin might not have been insurmountable, several Golden Bear mistakes turned the Piedmont lead in that direction before the third quarter ended.
On Lincoln’s first three second-half possessions, it committed three turnovers – first an interception and then two fumbles.
Piedmont turned the first two turnovers into points with a 5-yard touchdown run by Dreek Thompson and then a 19-yarder by Darnell Jackson.
Lincoln managed to hold the Bulldogs on downs, but after the ensuing drive stalled, the Golden Bears gave up a 60-yard punt return for a score to sophomore C.J. Savage that all but ended the game at 41-6.
Lincoln added two fourth quarter touchdowns in the final 8:45, both from Jamario Howard on runs of 1 and 4 yards. The Golden Bears were also successful on both 2-point conversions.