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Preview of Fighting Zebras football

Coach Lowe hopes to put the pieces together for 2011
By: Andrew Hazard Gold Country Media Correspondent
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Last season head coach Ken Lowe’s Lincoln High School varsity football team finished fourth in the Pioneer Valley League with a conference record of 2-3 (6-5 overall). The Fighting Zebras qualified for the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division III football playoffs but lost to Yuba City 35-28 in the first round. QUARTERBACK If Lincoln is going to return to the playoffs again in 2011 the Fighting Zebras must first select a quarterback to replace the graduated Christian Perkins. Perkins finished last season fourth in passing yards in the PVL (663) threw seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. He completed 43.1 percent of his passes (31-of-72). Senior quarterback Jacob Gomez should be next in line for the job. Gomez played four games at quarterback in 2010 and was 2-for-17 passing, including a touchdown. Gomez will be pushed by junior quarterback James Hubbard, who moves up from the junior varsity squad. "James (Hubbard)is a competitor," said junior varsity head coach Wayne Paul, who had Hubbard as his quarterback last year. "He's a really unique kid; football is his sport." Some of the top quarterbacks returning around the league will be Center junior Devin Eldredge, Bear River senior James Harris and, Colfax senior Austin Young. “You know, the league is pretty tough,” said coach Lowe. “Bear River has a couple of championship JV teams coming together, and Placer looks solid this year. And Colfax won the league last year.” RUSHING Lowe has also lost his leading rusher from last season in running back Oscar Fernandez. Fernandez was the PVL’s fourth-highest rusher in 2010 (975 yards on 140 carries). He also scored seven touchdowns. However, the running game should be in good hands with senior running back Isaac Allen. Last season Allen was a touchdown machine scoring 15. He rushed for 949 yards with no fumbles. He should be able to carry the rushing workload in 2011. The Fighting Zebras should be better off than the rest of the league. Only four of the top 10 leading rushers are expected to return. RECEIVING Lincoln’s quarterback should have some pretty good targets to throw to in 2011. Senior wide receiver Aldo Aguilar and senior tight end Colin Taylor should return. Aguilar was a big threat after the catch last season. He caught just seven passes, but they went for a total of 244 yards (eighth-best in the PVL), and he scored four touchdowns. “He has a lot of speed and has great lateral movement,” Lowe said of Aguilar. “He’s an athletic kid. It’s possible he could be moved to running back.” That would create quite a rushing tandem for Lowe, who feels Allen will be a big part of the Zebra’s attack this season. Aguilar also led the defense in interceptions last season with three. Allen can also be a threat coming out of the backfield as a receiver. Last season he caught seven passes for 190 yards and scored two touchdowns. Taylor caught four passes for 59 yards. Foothill’s senior wide receiver Kelly Bender is the league’s most experienced receiver. In 10 games, Bender caught 28 passes for 530 yards and scored six touchdowns. DEFENSE The Fighting Zebras’ defense might have to do a little bit of reshuffling in 2011. Last year’s leading tackler, linebacker Calven Sunia Mafileo, and sack-leader and defensive lineman Antonio Moreno, graduated. Lincoln will also miss linebacker Anthony Esparza, defensive lineman Anthony Latu (PVL leader with 100 tackles), and defensive backs Justin Engler and Tyler Morgan. Lincoln will look to senior defensive linemen Jordon Albarron and Michael Thompson to fill the void as leaders. The two combined for 133 solo tackles, 16 assists, and three sacks last season. SPECIAL TEAMS Lowe sees junior Cameron Tatum as kicker Joshua Hunt’s replacement; Hunt graduated last year. Hunt had only one field goal, but converted 34-of- 42 point-after-kicks. “(Tatum) is up from the JV,” said Lowe. “He did a great job for them.” Coach Paul concurred with Lowe on his assessment of Tatum. He said his ability to kick deep was impressive even as a sophomore. "Cameron was big for us," said Paul. "I would not be surprised to see him put it in the end zone this year several times, which at the high school level is great." Lincoln must also find replacements to return punts and kickoffs. Bobby Humiston and Morgan took care of most of those responsibilities last season. The two of them combined to have 15 returns for 288 yards in 2010. The Fighting Zebras have some holes to fill but with a great running game and a good defensive line, Lincoln could surprise and make a return trip to the playoffs. “I don’t know if we’re as deep as we were last year. Right now we have a few guys who will go both ways,” Lowe said of his evenly split squad of 50 juniors and seniors. “We’re going to have to develop some kids. I think we have some pieces of the puzzle to make a run this year.” Additional reporting by Jim Linsdau E-mail News Messenger Sports at jiml@goldcountrymedia.com