PUMPKIN CENTER – Unquestionably, it was North Lincoln’s ability to answer that pleased coach Nick Bazzle the most in Thursday night’s 20-6 home win over Bessemer City.

Bazzle saw his Knights respond when Bessemer City struck first in a matchup of similar option teams that was scoreless for the first 31-plus minutes. And he saw players on the second line of the depth chart perform when starters were sidelined with injuries.

“Our kids, they stepped up, and when they had to answer, they did,” Bazzle said.

In a game that included nine turnovers, the Knights forced five, including on Bessemer City’s final four drives to win and improve to 2-2.

Trailing 6-0 after Bessemer City (1-3) scored on Jarkevious Love’s 5-yard run at the 4:17 mark of the third quarter, North Lincoln crafted an 11-play, 52-yard drive and scored on a 10-yard run by senior running back Clayton Cribb on a fourth-and-3 play. Two plays later, Devan Gray secured the first of his two fumble recoveries to set up a 51-yard Knights scoring drive, which was capped by a Cribb 1-yard run.

Cribb, a 5-foot-11, 210-pound Army recruit, rushed for 99 yards on 21 carries, with the bulk of that coming after halftime. That was by design.

“We needed to get the ball in Cribb’s hands,” Bazzle said. “That’s what we tried to do.”

By the time Jake Soorus raced 44 yards for a touchdown with 1:21 to go, the Knights had the momentum of a win to carry them into their South Fork 2A Conference opener against West Lincoln Sept. 21.

In the post-game team huddle, North Lincoln sophomore Craig Rathbone stood, smiled and told his teammates that “losing’s not in our culture.” Rathbone, the team’s backup quarterback, entered the game late in the third quarter after junior starter Landon Beard hurt his hand. The Knights offense didn’t miss a beat.

“That’s the thing we talk about all the time,” Bazzle said. “You’re one play away from being the guy. You have to be ready at a moment’s notice.”

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