Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

The Love of Lincoln Co. Football No. 1 in Tiny Community

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

The Love of Lincoln Co. Football No. 1 in Tiny Community

Article excerpt

LINCOLNTON, Ga. -- One of the first things that greets you upon arrival in this small Northeast Georgia town about 40 miles north of Augusta is a sign with a pitchfork and "Go Red Devils" written on it.

This is Lincoln County, a place where everything else takes a backseat to high school football. This county has only 7,500 people and the town of Lincolnton boasts only 1,500.

Look around and you won't see any malls, shopping centers or fast-food places. There are no movie theaters, skating rinks or bowling alleys. In fact, there are few things to do besides playing football.

By the time children are old enough to walk, they dream of one day suiting up in the red and white uniforms and running out of the black tunnel at Buddy Bufford Stadium.

"It's hereditary," said longtime Lincoln coach Howard Ellis. "We have great athletes and, once these people finish playing, they don't leave Lincoln County. Then they have children and those kids become good athletes. It just goes on and on."

That explains why Lincoln County (11-3) has become king of small high school football in the state of Georgia. Twelve state titles and a state-record 44-game winning streak from 1988-91 that still stands. Only Valdosta's 23 state titles rank ahead of Lincoln's total.

For residents, a visit to watch the Red Devils play on Friday nights is almost as routine as getting up on Sunday mornings to attend church.

To get a better understanding of how important football is in this town, the entire downtown business district closed last Saturday and headed for Atlanta to watch the Red Devils beat Commerce in the Georgia Dome, setting up the Class A state title game with Charlton County (13-1) at 6 p.m. on Saturday.

"You have to understand something," said Lamar Leroy, who played for Lincoln County in 1962 and '63. "There is not a kid in Lincoln County who loves football who doesn't expect, at some point, to play in a state championship football game."

Since 1980, Lincoln County has captured seven state titles, matched only by Valdosta. …

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