J’Maka Love is Lincoln’s top wide receiver, but after five days of practicing under center before the Abes’ season-opener Saturday night against Bonney Lake, the junior looked like a veteran quarterback who can carry a team on his back.
Love put on a show at Sunset Chev Stadium in Sumner, particularly in the fourth quarter, helping Lincoln to a comeback victory. He was responsible for all three of Lincoln’s fourth-quarter touchdowns – two passing and one rushing – to give coach Jon Kitna his first victory as a high school coach with a 34-27 non-league win over the Panthers.
Lincoln (1-0) trailed 20-14 with less than 9 minutes left in the game before reeling off three touchdowns in a six-minute span. Love finished with 154 yards rushing with 128 coming in the second half and one rushing touchdown. He also completed 15 of 25 passes for 181 yards and three touchdowns.
“He was tremendous for us,” Kitna said. “The knock on Lincoln is that they’ll fold in the fourth quarter, they’re not in condition. Our guys have swallowed everything we’ve put at them conditioning-wise. That showed up, and we had a guy (Love) better than the rest of the team.”
Love was needed to play quarterbackwhen projected starter freshman Jordan Kitna, the coach’s son, lost his West Central District eligibility hearing to participate on varsity for the 2012 season. An appeal to the WIAA is scheduled for Thursday.
Three of Lincoln’s touchdowns came after fumble recoveries by the defense. After the Abes recovered a fumble at the Bonney Lake 44, the offense used a nine-play drive that ended in Love’s 22-yard touchdown pass to Joshua Eckwood (six catches, 123 yards in the game) that pushed the lead to 27-20. After forcing a Bonney Lake punt on its next series, Love’s 39-yard touchdown run made it a 34-20 advantage inside 3 minutes to play.
While first-year Bonney Lake coach Jason Silbaugh has said he wants to implement a more balanced offensive attack, senior quarterback Chris Brown still lit it up through the air. Brown’s 13-of-25 passing was good for 215 yards and three touchdowns, but he attempted only seven passes in the second half. His 36-yard touchdown pass to Robert Combs with 1 minute, 31 seconds left in the game pulled the Panthers (0-1) to the final margin, but the ensuing onside kick attempt went out of bounds. E.J. Harris and Ethan McElderry combined for 183 yards on the ground.
“Besides a couple of times shooting ourselves in the foot in the second half, I felt the game was going our way,” Silbaugh said. “It was tough. Lincoln sends a lot of pressure your way. And with a young offensive line, that’s tough.”email@example.com