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Zebras Peewees are SVUSA champs

Jr Midgets’ juggernaut derailed
By: Greg Easter Lincoln Jr. Zebras
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Two teams from the Lincoln Jr. Zebras went into the Sierra Valley USA championships Saturday; one enjoyed the thrill of victory, the other the agony of defeat. The PeeWees defeated a tough Woodland team, 30 –12. The Jr. Midgets perfect season came up a yard short. The PeeWees set the tone early as Woodland took the opening kickoff and marched deep into Jr. Zebra territory. The Jr. Zebras’ defense eventually stopped the Jr. Wolves once their backs were up against their goal line. The offense immediately went to work and drove the ball the length of the field. The drive culminated with Ryan Graham going around the right end to score. Tyler Eslinger converted the 2-point kick for an 8 - 0 lead. Woodland came back with a touchdown, but failed on the extra point. That made the score 8-6. From that poing, Lincoln’s defense became nearly impenetrable. The PeeWees’ Michael Hamp would then complete football’s trifecta – scoring three different ways. The first was a 1-yard dive led by Matt Brown, Colton Fraga, and Cole Guadarrama. It was set up by a 40-yard run by Graham with blocking from Dawson Nichols and Cade Borgerson. The second came on a touchdown pass over the middle from quarterback Logan Stern just before the first half ended. The third was a halfback pass, as Hamp pulled up on a sweep and hit Preston Eklund. Eklund was wide open behind the Woodland defense and took it in to give Lincoln a 30-6 lead. The Jr. Wolves would score again, but by then the game was out of reach. “As the year progressed, we executed better every week,” said Lincoln PeeWees head coach Dana Graham. “The championship game showed that the execution of these young men was near perfect. All the players came together as a team, and when that happened we were tough to beat.” Graham said the triumph was six years in the making. He credited parents and coaches for the PeeWees’ 2011 championship. Lincoln’s defense was led by Tyler Eslinger and Greden Macfarland. The Jr. Zebras Jr. Midget team came in undefeated with high hopes of another Lincoln championship – but it was not to be. The Roseville Jr. Tigers scored early and held on for a thrilling 26-22 victory. The game came down to the last minute as Lincoln showed great spirit in fighting to the end. The Jr. Zebras had blanked the Jr. Tigers during the regular season, but the Roseville club was ready. They pounded the ball up the middle, and off tackle to gain a 12-0 lead near the end of the first half, but it wouldn’t last. The Jr. Tigers used a squib kick to avoid a big run back, but it backfired. Lincoln speedster Joseph Flores took the short kick, got a block from Caleb Kettlehut, and went down the left sideline for a touchdown. Moises Huerta added a 2-point kick, and the half ended with Roseville up, 12-8. Lincoln took the second half kickoff and the offense went to the air. Quarterback Eli Garcia found receivers Austin Bennet, Jeffrey Jones, Gabe Triano, and Kettelhut to pick up yardage. However, penalties quickly slowed the Jr. Zebras’ momentum. The Jr. Tigers again went back to pounding the ball up the middle to again score. By the end of the third quarter, Roseville was up 26-8. Garcia again hit Kettlehut, this time for a 65-yard TD; the 2-point conversion was good to close the gap to 26-16. Lincoln’s defense then took over to get the ball back to the offense. The Jr. Zebras then drove deep into the Jr. Tigers’ territory, but penalties slowed the drive, and took precious time off the clock. Facing a fourth down, Triano made a nice catch of a Garcia pass and would not go down until he reached pay dirt. But this time, the extra point failed to leave the score, 26-22. A following onside kick by Benji Nieves was recovered by Lincoln to give them new life. Bennet took a Garcia pass into Roseville territory. However, the pass would prove the Jr. Midgets undoing. The Jr. Tigers’ defense rose up to intercept a Garcia pass at the 1-yard line and they were able to run out the clock. The Jr. Zebras’ had three teams make it into the SVUSA Playoffs. And both the Midget and Mighty Mite teams performed well in postseason action. The 2012 football season will start back up in June with free Sunday conditioning clinics serving as the first step to hopefully securing Lincoln's second championship trophy next season.