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Jr. Zebras finish 1-3 against Grant’s Jr. Pacers

By: Greg Easter/Special to the News Messenger
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The Lincoln Jr. Zebras hosted their last home game of the 2012 SVUSA season against the Grant Jr. Pacers Saturday. The Jr. Pacers, rich in football tradition, won three of four scored contests handing the Jr. Zebras their first losing day of the year. MITEY MITES The Mighty Mites play without a scoreboard, however the diminutive Zebras played extremely well. The game started as a defensive battle until Lincoln broke the deadlock. The Jr. Zebras’ offensive line of Karson Seaman, John Andes, Aiden Newberry, Dakota Perry, Dylan Lusch, and Kaleb Bacus started opening holes for running backs Caden Noonan and Jake Hamilton. However, it would be Newberry sweeping left end for the first score of the day. Bacus then went to quarterback to sneak in the point after touchdown. Grant fought back to put up a score but the Jr. Zebras smothered the extra point. Lincoln's defense allowed no more scoring and shut down the vaunted Grant offense the rest of the day. Gabriel Burns scored for the Jr. Zebras and the extra point was good. Grant tried to answer with a pass but Burns and Joaquin Miller put a hit on the receiver that jarred the ball loose and Burns landed on it. The Jr. Zebras put one more ball in the end zone when Devon Henry went 38 yards for the final score of the game. JR. PEEWEES Coach James Brown’s Jr. PeeWees came in matching the Jr. Pacers’ 5-1 record. Things brightened early for Lincoln as the Jr. Zebras won 14-0. Behind stellar defensive plays by Cole Vineyard, George Diaz, Deven Brown, Zach Hatten, and Grady Manley, Grant's first series resulted in a loss of 10 yards. On offense, the rushing of Manley and Malachi Nelson help set up a Tommy Turner to Diaz for 26 yards and the game's first score. The Jr. Zebras led at half 6-0. Again, the offense went to work with a good run by Brown to gave the home club a first and goal. Manley punched it in to put Lincoln up 12 -0. The Jr. Zebras defense would earn the final score trapping a Grant runner in the end zone for a safety. The win put the Jr. PeeWees in sole possession of first place in the North Division. PEEWEES Coach Jess Coffer’s club put their 6-0 record on the line and paid the price as the athletic Jr. Pacers earned a 19-6 victory. The Jr. Zebras offense found the going tough and the defense had trouble handling the powerful inside running and outside speed of the Jr. Pacers. Grant took an early 13-0 lead. Lincoln's score came when Antonio Nevarez pushed his way into the end zone from a short distance out to bring the Jr. Zebras within seven. Lincoln later drove to the Jr. Pacers’ 10-yard line but failed to convert on a fourth down play. Grant took the ball methodically up field to score the final touchdown of the day. JR. MIDGETS Coach Dana Graham's Jr. Midgets found the road even tougher facing the undefeated, first-place Jr. Pacers. Averaging almost 20 points a game, Grant was held to 18 this time but still claimed a 10-point victory. Lincoln's defense was led outside by Ryan Graham, Kyle McKnight and Tyler Eslinger while the inside was anchored by Zachary Eutsey and Cade Borgerson. The Jr. Zebras had an answer for all but one Jr. Pacers’ challenge to fall behind 6-0 at the end of two quarters. In the second half, the Jr. Pacers put up two more scores but would not get a shutout. Eslinger would make an acrobatic catch in the end zone of a Preston Eklund pass and then kick the PAT to put the home club on the board. The win kept Grant in first place. MIDGETS Both clubs came in with matching records but the visitors prevailed 16-6. While both offenses were able to move the ball, they each had a hard time closing the deal. Grant finally broke through for a score and an 8-0 lead. Lincoln answered back when Joseph Flores exploded and rambled for a TD. The missed conversion left the score at 8-6. Grant scored one more time and put the kick through the uprights to secure the victory. Lincoln will head for Elk Grove to face Southern Division powerhouse Franklin Jr. Wildcats. The game is on Sunday this week at Cosumnes Oaks High School. The Mighty Mites’ game begins at 9 a.m. followed by Jr. PeeWees, PeeWees, Jr. Midgets, and Midgets. Greg Easter is a Jr. Zebras’ coach and News Messenger contributor