First-year coach Jon Kitna has Lincoln playing at a high level right now, but mistakes at key times have proven to be costly and resulted in a 1-3 league record so far. And mistakes reared their ugly head again on Oct. 5, as Lincoln came up short against unbeaten Shelton by a score of 34-28 on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Shelton backup quarterback Chase Salisbury to David Ajamu with five seconds left in the game.
“We’re really hurting ourselves at key times with mistakes, but we’ll get better as our team matures,” said Kitna. The focal point for Lincoln would be the state’s leading rusher, Shelton senior Ralph Kinne.
With Kinne racking up 167 yards in the first half and Lincoln trailing 28-7, Kitna and his defensive coaches changed a few things up at halftime.
“We put a couple of more kids in the box and it made a big difference (in us) getting back into the game,” Kitna said. The Abes held Kinne to 88 yards in the second half. “We did not get panicky at halftime,” said Kitna. “The character on this team is amazing. I’m proud of their effort.”
The tide began to turn early in the second half. Quarterback J’Maka Love hit Kashawn Johnson with an 11-yard touchdown pass to trim the lead to 28-14, and before the fans could find their seats after the score, Dehonta Hayes picked off a Jared Welander pass and raced 70 yards to the house to trim the lead to 28-21 midway through the third quarter. With a little over five minutes left in the game, the Abes took over on their own 47-yard line and marched 53 yards to the end zone, as Love hit Joshua Eckwood on a one-yard pass with 2:49 left to tie it at 28. Love would finish with 204 yards passing with three touchdowns, completing 17 out of 32 passes.
Following a Shelton punt, the Abes took over on their own 38-yard line with 45 seconds left, but an interception set the High Climbers up for the late dramatics.
“We battled, but also hurt ourselves in the end,” said Kitna.
The Abes now turn their attention to 4A South Kitsap – who will provide a stern test for the black and gold – then it is back to league play on Oct. 19 when Lincoln plays at Wilson at Stadium Bowl. The Abes, Rams and Foss Falcons all stand at 1-3, tied for third in the Narrows 3A with a playoff berth at stake.
“We’ll have to get back to basics this week and eliminate the penalties and turnovers and concentrate on the postseason,” said Kitna. “The next three weeks will be huge.”