PREVIEW: Fighting Zebras football

Life after graduation
By: Aaron Jackson for The News Messenger
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2016 Schedule (Opponent 2015 record)

Aug. 24 – vs. Ponderosa (2-8)

Sep. 2 – at Antelope (12-1)

Sep. 9 – vs. Nevada Union (1-9)

Sep. 16 – vs. Wheatland (2-8)

Sep. 23 – at Casa Roble (3-7)

Sep. 30 – Bye

*Oct. 7 – at Bear River (9-4)

*Oct. 14 – vs. Colfax (3-7)

*Oct. 21 – at Center (6-5)

*Oct. 28 – at Foothill (3-7)

*Nov. 4 – vs. Placer (12-1)

*Pioneer Valley League Game

The Lincoln High School varsity football team is getting ready for their season of play, which begins Aug. 26 against Ponderosa.

The Fighting Zebras will be looking to replace their firepower on offense since seniors Eli Garcia, Eli Cunningham and Caleb Kettlehut have all graduated. All-Pioneer Valley League quarterback Garcia, who had a completion rate of 59.5 percent and 28 touchdowns, will be replaced by senior Isaac Adams.

Adams was called on to start at quarterback in the Wheatland game last season. As a junior, he passed for 236 yards and two touchdowns in the game played at Wheatland.

Cunningham, a running back who had 1,795 all-purpose yards and 26 touchdowns, will be replaced by Ryan Graham. A junior last year, Graham had 2,188 all-purpose yards and 17 touchdowns.

The Zebras look solid in those two areas, but where they will have to improve is receiving. Lincoln lost Caleb Kettlehut, who had 1,912 all-purpose yards and 20 touchdowns as a receiver in 2015.

Fighting Zebras head coach Chris Bean was questioned about the areas where the team needs to improve.

“Mental and physical toughness; we need clarity of purpose on our defense as well,” Bean said.

This is Bean’s third season coaching the Fighting Zebras. Last year he led his team to the playoffs with a 6-4 record. The head coach looks to improve on that record this season.

Graham will likely be looked upon as a team leader this fall. The talented running back looks at his role as just one of the wheels to help keep the team rolling.

“Make sure my guys are going in the right direction and give everything that I have,” Graham said concerning leadership. “If I do, then I should be getting the touchdowns and scores that my team needs.”

Graham will look to improve on his great junior year, but knows he can’t accomplish it alone.

The schedule for the Zebras does not start off easy, as they face Ponderosa in Lincoln. The Bruins defeated the Zebras 42-34 in last year’s opener.

After that, the Zebras have arguably the toughest game of the season at Antelope. The Titans were 12-1 in 2015 and made it to the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division II Playoff semifinals.

The Zebras then have a two-game home stand against Nevada Union and Highway 65 rival Wheatland. Lincoln then heads for Casa Roble Sept. 23. PVL competition begins Oct. 7 at Bear River, where Bean was the junior varsity coach before coming to Lincoln.

The Zebras are working hard on the field and fighting to have a great season. Lincoln fans are hoping all their hard work and dedication will pay off.

_ Aaron Jackson is the former sports editor of Zebra Tales and plans to function as Lincoln High’s Sports Information Director this season.