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Center too fast for Lincoln in league opener

Zebras fall 39-27
By: Garrett Johnston/News Messenger Correspondent
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The Lincoln Fighting Zebra’s began Pioneer Valley League play with a 39-27 loss to the host Center Cougars at Gerety Stadium on Friday Night. Lincoln quarterback Davis Dykstra began the scoring, on the defensive end, with his first quarter 30-yard interception return for a touchdown. Talk about leading by example for one’s team. That gave Lincoln a 6-0 lead against the speedy Center Cougars in what had been an otherwise stagnant first quarter for the Zebras. “It was a big lift for us,” head coach Ken Lowe said after the game. “We didn’t move the ball well offensively in the first quarter, so something like that really got us started off and kept us in it.” Friday’s game was the first time that Lowe started Dykstra on defense.He replaced the injured safety Landon Croisant. “It’s weird, this is the first week I started playing defense,” Dykstra said. “Coach came up to me this week and asked if I wanted to play corner, so I started and worked my butt off.” However hard the Lincoln defense pushed, they could not hold off the outstanding rushing effort of speedy senior running back D-juan Bellaire who rushed for 177 yards and three touchdowns. “Their backs are incredible,” Coach Lowe said. “We haven’t seen speed like that yet this year so my hat’s off to them. We knew they were fast and we had done everything to contain them in the first half. If you just barely miss (a tackle), they got another 5-10 yards being so quick.” Quick enough to rush for 387 total yards on the ground. A stat that head coaches at any football level would dream of. Center head coach Digol J-Beily spoke well of his rushing effort and the Fighting Zebras after the game. “Our running game was really effective tonight,” he said. “Lincoln’s a good team. They’re a scrappy team. We were battling back and forth.” The halftime score was 13-13, with Dykstra scoring one of those with his hands on that interception return and the other with his arm on a 16-yard pass to James Hubbard late in the second quarter. Dykstra fired a 41-yard touchdown pass in the early portion of the second half to keep his team in the game at 20-20 but Center grabbed that hard-earned momentum immediately on the very next play. Senior Robert Gervais returned the kickoff 95 yards for a Center touchdown that set the tone for the rest of the half. “It was a big play for us because it turned the momentum right back in our favor,” Coach J’Beily said. “That pumped air back into our hearts and got us moving a little bit more.” Dykstra continued his impressive long distance display by connecting on a 52-yard pass to Eddy Cobleigh that set-up a touchdown and 27-26 lead for the Zebras. “Dykstra had a great game,” coach J’Beily said. “Keeping them in the game by throwing the ball down the field. We tried to put pressure on him but he was still able to roll out and throw the ball downfield. He’s a good athlete and he scrambles too.” But that would be all the scoring the Zebras would accomplish. A late fumble from Hubbard gave the Cougars a chance to wrap up the game with their dominant rushing display. They did so and now both teams look ahead to the continuing league play. “It looks like it could be anybody’s league,” coach Lowe said. “We’re going to have to overcome the physical mistakes, we’re going to have to protect that football if we want to win games.” Totals: Lincoln Dykstra 11-18 148 yards and 2 TD’s Center Tyrel Anderson 10-14 79 yards passing 12 rushes for 146 yards, 2 TD D-juan Bellaire 29 rushes for 177 yards Scoring by quarter 1st Quarter Dykstra (Lincoln) 30 yard TD interception, 6-0 (3:38 first) Bellaire (Center) 2 yard TD run, 6-6 (1:19 first) 2nd Quarter Bellaire (Center) 10 yard TD run, 13-6 (9:33 second) (Cooper PA) Hubbard (Lincoln) 16 yards reception from Dykstra, 13-13 (15.6 second) (Diaz PA) 13-13 at halftime 3rd Quarter Bellaire (Center) 21 yard TD run, 20-13 (10:44 third) (Cooper PA) Hubbard (Lincoln) 42 yard TD reception from Dykstra, 20-20 (9:32 third) (Diaz PA) Gervais (Center) 95 yard TD kickoff return, 26-20 (9:14 third) Tatem (Lincoln) 3 yard TD run, 27-26 (7:41 third) (Diaz PA) Anderson (Center) 26 yard TD run, 32-27 (3:39 third) 4th Quarter Anderson (Center) 2 yard TD run, 39-27 (6:50 fourth) (Cooper PA) 39-27 Center, Final