Lincoln opportunities turn into big mistakes

Fumbles help Center escape, 20-14
By: Aaron Jackson for The News Messenger
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ANTELOPE – After giving up a 14-0 lead and trailing 20-14, the Lincoln High football team had a chance to score from Center’s 2-yard line with 30 seconds remaining in the game – and fumbled.

It was the Fighting Zebras third turnover of the game and evened their preseason record at 2-2.

The Fighting Zebras were coming off a 30-0 victory over Whitney last week, while Center came in 4-0 after defeating El Camino 41-17.

It was the first meeting of the two clubs following the Zebras’ move from the Pioneer Valley League to the Foothill Valley League. Lincoln had beaten the Cougars five out of eight games in PVL play.

“I really respect them. Coach JBeily does a phenomenal job. These guys play hard every single down,” said Lincoln head coach Chris Bean, before the game. “I like where we’re at, but we have to limit self-inflicted wounds,” Bean added, almost prophetically. “That’s why we have these preseason games.”

After a slow start, the Zebras caught a break when defensive back Jorge Diaz intercepted a pass and returned it 23 yards. After driving to Center’s 2-yard line, Deven Coffer bulled into the end zone for six; Brett Woolley’s point-after made it 7-0 to start the second quarter.

The Cougars responded with a 60-yard kickoff return, but was eventually forced to punt.

Lincoln again went on the move with a drive that ended in a 12-yard touchdown pass. Quarterback Tommy Turner hit wide receiver Harry Rounds for a 14-0 Lincoln lead.

The Cougars came back to score on a 2-yard plunge by Michael Wortham. However, the PAT failed, giving the Zebras a 14-6 halftime advantage.

After suffering a fumble early in the second half, the Lincoln defense kept Center from turning it into any advantage. The offense then swung into action and drove to the Cougars’ 5-yard line – where they coughed the ball up a second time – and having Center pinned inside their 10 didn’t help.

Cougars’ wide receiver Lorenzo McGill hauled in a 94-yard touchdown pass to cut the visitor’s lead to 14-12, after a failed 2-point conversion. But Center was not done.

After being pinned on their 1, the Cougars marched 99 yards, topped off by a 33-yard TD pass. The home club made good on a 2-point conversion and led for the first time, 20-14, with 2:44 left on the clock.

That set up the Zebras’ final drive that ended with a catastrophic turnover on Center’s 2-yard line.

“It was just self-inflicted wounds. We still had a chance to win, which is all you can ask your kids to do,” Bean said. “Center was resilient and disciplined. They kept themselves in the game and won it in the end.

“Leaders have to step up and be leaders,” Bean added.

Lincoln travels up to Eureka Friday to take on the 5-0 Loggers. They begin league play next Friday against Oakmont.