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Partnership holds promise for Jr. Zebra football

Youth program aligns itself with high school efforts
By: Brett Ransford, Special to The News Messenger
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In this case two was not better than one. In a major effort to improve their relationship with the high school and become a solid feeder program, the Lincoln Jr. Zebras consolidated two youth football programs into one. The youth football program has completed a total structure change as they now work directly with Lincoln High and have more than 150 athletes available. Lincoln High varsity coach Ken Lowe contributes directly with the Jr. Zebras. It has been the goal of LJZ to mirror Lowe’s program and philosophies. “We feel that this partnering with the high school will help us improve our program with Coach Lowe's and his staff's input,” said Jr. Zebra President Mike Fain. “We will improve our coaching staffs and in turn we are able to teach our kids the high school terminology and formations. Then they already have been taught the basics and are able to move ahead more quickly once they reach high school.” Junior varsity head coach Al Soto is now on the board for the Jr. Zebras as a liaison for the high school. It is a reformation of the previous Lincoln football programs. Prior to the reorganization, the Lincoln Jr. Zebras and the Chargers program were competing for resources. This year, the Jr. Zebra coaching staff is full of returning coaches. According to Fain the kids are familiar with the coaches and continue to grow. With the newly established partnership with the high school, the program hopes to contend with the rest of the talent in the Sierra Foothill Conference. Right up to the start of regular season play Lincoln’s squads have been able to give coaches opportunities to see how we the program has progressed. With preseason over and the regular season opener on the road, the Jr. Zebras have managed a fierce preparation. Lincoln wasted no time in getting ready for a tough season as their first preseason scrimmage was against Del Oro. “Del Oro has been a great organization to work with and being able to scrimmage them has really helped us raise our game and give us a benchmark early in the season,” Fain said. At the SYFC jamboree Saturday at Woodcreek High, the Lincoln midget team defense was very active. The unit allowed just one touchdown against three SYFC powerhouses. Josh Myers and Eddy Cobleigh combined for three interceptions. The offense, led by quarterbacks Michael Tapia and Aaron Soto moved the ball consistently, scoring one touchdown against Granite Bay. According to Jr. Zebra secretary Dawn Wareham, the offensive line showed significant improvement. Mark Freitas anchored the line and displayed substantial upgrades over their earlier scrimmage against Del Oro. “There’s a lot of excitement and enthusiasm for the regular season,” Wareham said. “We’ve had several more coaches come to help out this year. We have more coaches this year than in any season before. They played really well against the local teams and I think we have a good chance to develop our levels to make playoffs.” The Jr. Zebras have a full coaching staff for the first year. Stronger numbers for the peewee, junior midget and midget teams have really boosted the programs morale and confidence heading into Saturday’s season opener at Nevada Union. The Division II (Sierra Foothill Conference) 2009 champion will most likely be boosted to Division I (Sierra Valley Conference) next year. Lincoln’s large number of available players has them perched ready to prove the strength of their program for years to come. All teams have new head coaches except for the junior peewees coach Charles Middleton. Head coaches James Brown (mighty mites), Mike Fain (peewees), Robert Ramos (junior midgets) and Al Jones (midgets) will call on their teams to set a strong course for the new season. For the regular season expectations are high for the mighty mite squad. The last three seasons it has made the playoffs, and last year it came with one game of the championship. “With all the returning players and half of them moving up to the junior peewees, we feel they have great potential as well,” Fain said. With solid players at such a young age Lincoln is sure to graduate those young players even further into their program. The benefit of having a true feeder program may now greatly pay off for the Jr. Zebras. The Jr. Zebras are happy about being in the second tier division instead of the Sierra Valley against teams like Granite Bay, Roseville, Woodcreek and Oakmont. It may be the Division II of the SYFC but it doesn’t come easy as they have to face Foothill and Bear River in the regular season. “We are happy with the two divisions in the SYFC this season,” Fain said. “It will give us and teams like us with similar populations the opportunity to really compete and grow our programs.”