Trying to turn that championship corner

Hot and cold play fails expectations
By: Jim Linsdau, Sports Editor
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The Lincoln High football season ended with a 49-28 loss at Tracy in round one of the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II Playoffs Friday. Although the Fighting Zebras took an early lead, turnovers and big plays by the Bulldogs eventually put the game out of reach for the local 11.

“We’re down two touchdowns and we decide to go ahead and punt,” said Lincoln head coach Chris Bean. “And Brett Woolley punts it to the 1-yard line and the next play their guy rips off 99 yards and that was pretty much the game right there.”

Lincoln seniors Harry Rounds and Jacob Lemus finished with big plays of their own. Rounds had a touchdown run of 36 yards and caught a 23-yard TD pass from Tommy Turner.

After opening the game with a 13-yard TD run, Lemus came back to return a kickoff deep into Tracy territory and rushed 10 yards for Lincoln’s final score.

But that brought the curtain down on an otherwise promising season.

Lincoln played a tough schedule and beat Antelope, Whitney, Oakmont, Ponderosa and Nevada Union. They also gave Placer, one of the area’s top teams, a run for their money in the Foothill Valley League championship game. But in the end, it was a 5-5 season, 5-6 counting the playoffs.

“This groups of kids, they weren’t necessarily moved by my speeches or by things that we did. They were moved by where they were at, at that point in time,” said Bean. “They were so excited to play Whitney that they went out and played phenomenal football against Whitney. They were really excited to go play Placer.

“When they were on, and they were in, they were one of the best teams that we’ve had. When they were not locked in and not internally motivated, well, things didn’t go our way.”

With five years under his belt, Bean must now try to find a way to inspire his team for at least 10 games a season, and up to a half dozen more, if all goes well. With the success of the freshmen and junior varsity teams this year, Bean now feels Lincoln High is becoming a destination for young players who used to take their talents elsewhere.

His philosophy of strength in numbers has not changed. He said where other teams attract those Division I players, the Zebras are just now starting to turn that corner.

“We’re really now at that point where, ‘Hey, we’ve got our guys,’” Bean said. “Now we have to go out there on a Friday night, it doesn’t matter who it is, and we’ve got to play at a championship level.”

In high school, talent is always going to walk off the stage with diploma in hand. And typically, more talent will walk in behind them to fill their shoes – this year’s JV and frosh teams and juniors are no exception.

And Bean has seen his philosophy of building men of character and not just football players take hold. He said no player missed a game because of grades, suspensions or an infraction of rules for the first time since he has been at Lincoln.

Now, what he would like to see is his philosophy take hold in the Zebras’ level of play on the field.

“(We all) have to all sit down and look at ourselves in the mirror,” Bean said. “That championship culture has to take root.”