Nursing a slim lead and trusting his solid defense late in a key game against Wilson, Lincoln head coach Jon Kitna took a big gamble. After three unsuccessful fourth down tries earlier in the game and the Abes up just 21-18 with just over three minutes remaining, Kitna went for it again on fourth-and-12 from his own 34-yard line. This time the move paid off. J’Maka Love hit Dionte Simon for a 22-yard gain, and the junior quarterback hit Joshua Eckwood for a 44-yard touchdown on the next play to seal a 28-18 win over Wilson on Oct. 19, moving the Abes one win away from a playoff berth. “We just don’t play well when we try to play it safe,” Kitna said. “That’s what we have to do to win football games, is play on the edge.”
The Rams got on the board first, as Kevin Shin picked off Love on Lincoln’s first drive at the Abes’ five-yard line, and Devon Phillips raced around the right side from six yards out on the next play and added the two-point conversion to make it 8-0. The Abes answered right back, as Love hit Kashawn Johnson to cap a nine-play, 77-yard drive to make it 8-7. After Wilson regained the lead with a field goal at the beginning of the second quarter, the Abes’ Anthony Fellows returned the following kickoff 86 yards for a score to give Lincoln a 14-11 lead. Phillips regained the lead for Wilson with a nifty 21-yard scamper midway through the second quarter, and the Rams led 18-14 at the half. But Wilson quarterback Moses Lewis fumbled on the opening drive of the second half, and Love converted it into a 26-yard scoring scamper to give the Abes a 21-18 lead. The Rams threatened to take the lead early in the fourth, driving deep into Lincoln territory, but the Abes forced a Lewis incompletion on fourth down to take over. “Our defense got after it,” Kitna said. “They were super impressive. We had some guys make some serious plays.” After the Abes stopped Wilson at midfield later in the fourth, it looked as if Lincoln’s offense was stalled again and the Rams would get another shot. But that is when Love finally connected on fourth down, and then put the game away. “Josh (Eckwood) had a great catch,” Love said. “I threw a bad ball, but he made the play. Our line did a great job on that drive.”
The Rams’ final comeback effort was snuffed when safety Dehonta Hayes came down with his second interception of the game on the Abes’ five-yard line, and the offense ran out the clock. “We had our opportunities, we just didn’t finish is what it comes down to,” said Wilson head coach Don Clegg. “I’m proud of the guys though, they battled all the way to the end.” Phillips led Wilson with 20 carries for 84 yards and the two scores, while adding two catches for 26 yards. Love was 9-for-18 for 162 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions for Lincoln, while adding 18 carries for 120 yards and a score. While Wilson has been eliminated from a postseason berth, the Abes host Foss on Oct. 26, with the winner claiming the league’s fourth seed to the playoffs.
By Jeremy Helling