By Will Heath, For the Tribune
LINCOLN — It’s the right time of year to play your best. And Leeds might just be doing that.
The seventh-ranked Green Wave, a week after an emotional win over archrival Moody, built a 30-0 lead on the road again region foe Lincoln, ultimately leaving town with a 30-14 victory.
“What you’re playing for now, is to see how well you can play every play,” Leeds head coach Jerry Hood said after the game. “And if you play every play better than you did against Moody, then you can get on a run. And you want to get hot at this time of year.”
The win means the Green Wave (7-2, 5-1) remains mathematically alive for a 5A Region 6 championship, after Moody defeated Southside to create a 3-way tie atop the region. According to Hood, Leeds could still claim the region’s top spot if they can defeat non-region foe Center Point at home in Week 10.
“Possibly,” Hood said.
No such help was necessary Friday in Lincoln. Leeds started fast, with a 70-yard touchdown toss from quarterback Conner Nelson to freshman wideout Tay Gaiter. Nelson would finish with 210 yards and three touchdowns rushing, receiving and throwing. Gaiter finished with 93 yards receiving, completed a 14-yard pass to Nelson and set up both Green Wave second-half touchdowns with returns deep into Golden Bear territory.
“He’s (Gaiter) an unbelievable talent,” Hood said. “And he’s just a baby.”
Tailback ZJ Dale scored a touchdown before half to put Leeds up 17-0. He finished with 106 yards on the ground.
“I’m ready for the playoffs,” Dale said. “We’ve got to lock in and get ready for the playoffs.”
The Green Wave defense shut down the Golden Bears (4-5, 1-5) for most of the first three quarters. The defensive front registered 6 sacks on the night, and forced a fumble.
That fumble was the game’s key play, as Chris Burge recovered a fumble by Lincoln quarterback Montavius Weed near midfield. That turnover came only 2 snaps after Lincoln’s defense had intercepted Nelson to kill a Leeds drive.
“That was a tough one,” Lincoln head coach Matt Zedaker said. “Even if we don’t score, we’ve got a chance going in at halftime 10-0 against a very good team.”
Zedaker’s squad got fourth-quarter touchdowns from James Tucker and Caleb Jenkins.
“We’re a very young football team, but the whole point was to come out tonight on Senior Night and play for them, play as hard as we could possibly play and have some fun,” Zedaker said. “Our kids did that.”
The Bears finish on the road against Beauregard. Leeds will return home to face Center Point, with the region potentially still in play.
“We’ve got a tough challenge next week,” Hood said. “I think it’s going to be so good for us.”