Hey, Farm Bureau: Here’s Your Guy
Hooten’s recently announced “watch lists” for 2018 Farm Bureau Insurance Awards, which will honor Arkansas’ top offensive player, defensive player and coach-of-the-year for each classification.
They better send a photographer over to Lincoln (8-2, 5-2, 4A-1) because Wolves’ senior quarterback Caleb Lloyd is on fire. Lloyd connected on 24-of-31 passes, a 77 percent completion rate, for 386 yards and 4 touchdowns with no interceptions. He ran the ball 13 times for 87 yards and a trio of touchdowns to lead Lincoln past Prairie Grove in a Friday night shootout won by the Wolves, 59-48.
Even his head coach, Don Harrison, who has Lincoln in the playoffs for the second time in four years, has been dreaming about Lloyd.
“I told myself last night if he could get four or five touchdowns I thought we’d win the game, not seven — that’s just crazy,” Harrison said in the aftermath of Lincoln’s first victory over Prairie Grove since November of 1994.
Lloyd will bookend his four-year varsity football career at Lincoln with appearances in the playoffs, as a freshman starting tailback in 2015; and this season.
Harrison, who installed Lloyd as a starter as a freshman; then switched him to quarterback for his junior year put the right man at the helm.
Offensively Lincoln executed at an exceptionally high level in upstaging rival, Prairie Grove, which owned a 19-game win streak over the Wolves coming into Friday’s contest. The Tigers simply could not stop Lincoln’s offense. Nor could they get a handle on Lloyd.
“He’s such a good player, and I know people questioned it last year when I moved him to quarterback … and he never played quarterback before in his life,” Harrison said. “Now, when you look at it, I don’t think anybody’s questioning it anymore.”
A handful of plays illustrated Lloyd’s ability to improvise at crucial moments on the way to 59 points Lincoln put on the scoreboard. The first came late in the second quarter after Prairie Grove scored 21 unanswered points, following a turnover on downs, fumbled kickoff return, and blocked punt.
Trailing 28-20 with 2:40 left in the first half, Lloyd guided the offense on a 6-play, 69-yard touchdown drive. He completed passes of 11 and 12 yards to sophomore slot receiver Noe Avellaneda. On second-and-10 with Prairie Grove defenders bearing down on him, Lloyd avoided a sack, reversed field and came back to his right gaining 19 yards to the Tiger 27.
“I just got caught up in the moment and didn’t want to let my team down,” Lloyd said. “I knew I had already went too far into the backfield and it would have been tough to get out of that situation so I put team on my mind, put them on my back, got out of it, things worked out.”
On the next play he tossed a touchdown pass to Sterling Morphis, then ran in the 2-point conversion to tie the game, at 28-all, 1:08 after Lincoln got the ball.
The scramble was a huge play, keeping the drive alive and staunching some of Prairie Grove’s momentum — although the Tigers answered with a 5-play, 64-yard scoring march engineered by Lloyd’s counterpart, Prairie Grove senior quarterback Ethan Guenther. Jake Watson hauled in Guenther’s 37-yard touchdown pass and Cade Walker kicked the extrapoint pushing Prairie Grove back in front, 35-28, with a mere 36.7 seconds showing on the second quarter clock.
The Tigers had left Lloyd too much time. He led the Wolves 67 yards in lighting fashion, needing only three plays including passes of 21 yards to Daytin Davis and 30 to Avellaneda, who caught a ball that had been tipped by a defensive back, and bolted downfield. Both receivers got out-of-bounds
precious seconds and allowing Lincoln to set up. Lloyd flipped a shovel pass to Cam Brown, who burst into the end zone from 16 yards out with 14.9 seconds to spare.
Prairie Grove blocked the extra-point kick maintaining a 35-34 edge at the half, but Lloyd made the deficit evaporate quickly in the second half.
Both Lloyd (10-17, 153 yards, 2 touchdowns) and tailback Cam Brown (13 carries, 105 yards) went over 100 yards of offense after play resumed in the third quarter. Brown would finish with a monster night gaining a total 173 rushing yards on 21 carries and adding 42 yards on three receptions. Morphis racked 172 yards on 7 catches, four of which went for touchdowns. Avellaneda added 8 catches for 121 yards; Daytin Davis had 3 for 29 and Levi Wright 3 for 22.
The man delivering the ball to each contributor at an opportune moment is Lloyd. Harrison makes no bones about the value of his quarterback running the fast-paced, run-pass option offense.
“That’s all Caleb Lloyd, and I hate to put it just on him; but, man, he’s the engine that pulls the train.” Harrison said. “He does such a great job. He was on the money tonight … Caleb Lloyd, I think four throwing touchdowns and three rushing touchdowns, that’s just crazy, crazy, crazy. It couldn’t come at a bigger time.” MARK HUMPHREY IS A SPORTS REPORTER FOR THE ENTERPRISE-LEADER.