The stage was set for a very special night at Lincoln High School on Sept. 21. The weather was beautiful, the Abes were off to a 3-0 start before their home opener, and the unveiling of the Lawyer Milloy weight room and a halftime ceremony to retire his Lincoln jersey were all part of the excitement. The North Thurston Rams would have none of it.
Rushing for 207 yards while holding the Abes’ rushing attack to a mere minus-eight yards on the night, the Rams coasted to a 36-7 win to put a damper on the evening's festivities.
“We had several chances to make plays on the night but could not put the ball in the end zone when we had to,” said Lincoln coach Jon Kitna, who celebrated his 40th birthday before the game.
On their first possession of the game, and facing a fourth-and-12 from their own 45-yard line, the Abes’ Dionte Simon was stopped in his tracks on a fake punt attempt as the Rams took over. Three plays later, Mo Manning found end zone from 15 yards out for a 7-0 lead. It would be a lead they would not relinquish.
“My offensive line was great tonight and I just fell in behind them,” said Manning, who ran for 71 yards and four touchdowns on the night. “We were very physical too.”
Starting from their three-yard line on their next drive, a holding penalty on Lincoln in the end zone resulted in a safety and upped the Rams lead to 9-0. The Rams would continue their dominance for the remainder of the half – with touchdown drives of 52 and 33 yards –
and took a 22-0 lead into the locker room at half time.
The Abes started fast in the second half. But facing a fourth-and-3 from the Rams’ 21, quarterback J'Maka Love was thrown for a 14-yard loss as the wind came out of the Lincoln sails and the beat went on for North Thurston. Following the great stop in their own end, the Rams marched 65 yards in 13 plays for a 29-0 lead.
The Abes salvaged some pride when Love found running back Jonathan Hardnett in the back of the end zone late in the fourth quarter to close it out at 36-7.
When all was said and done, Kitna put it all in perspective. “I was very disappointed with our lack of intensity tonight. It did not even come close to matching theirs, and when you are playing a team the caliber of North Thurston, you can't afford not to bring it night-in and night-out. We’re not at that stage yet.”
*By Steve Mullen