No high school is closer to the Tacoma Dome – site of Gridiron Classic, the state football championships – than the Lincoln High Abes.
And from the first day he was hired after a lengthy NFL career, Abes coach Jon Kitna has made it a goal to win Narrows 3A championships – and someday contend for state titles.
The seventh-ranked Abes kept their league title hopes alive Friday, riding the run game in the final minutes to turn away 10th-ranked Wilson, 21-16, in an entertaining yet sloppy game at Lincoln Bowl.
Tailback Marcus Johnson’s 14-yard touchdown run with 7 minutes, 55 seconds remaining proved to be the game-winner for Lincoln. Johnson also intercepted a final Rams’ pass at the 1:19 mark to seal the deal.
If the Abes defeat Foss next weekend, and Timberline loses to Shelton, Lincoln will clinch its first league title since 1963.
“Our guys, I am proud of them,” Kitna said. “To grind one out like this, it is awesome. It showed a lot of competitive character.”
To clinch the league’s final playoff spot, the Rams need the Abes to win next week as well.
Wilson could not have gotten off to a worst start, losing fumbles on the first play of its opening two drives.
Rayshaun Miller gave the Abes a 6-0 lead on a 10-yard scoring scamper just 58 seconds into the game. The lead grew to 8-0 when the Rams snapped the football out of the end zone on a punt attempt.
This had the makings of a blowout – that is, until Brandon Montgomery changed the complexion of the game by hauling in a pass along the right sideline from quarterback Julius Yates-Brown over cornerback Tavon Murray, and racing 93 yards for a touchdown to cut it to 8-7.
But with three minutes remaining in the first half, Yates-Brown went down with a foot injury. And with backup quarterback Alex Koshman (thumb) also sidelined, the Rams turned to third-stringer Brandon Scarpaci to run the offense.
The bottom line, we just didn’t have a quarterback who had played very much,” Wilson coach Don Clegg said. “We tried to go with a guy who was pretty inexperienced.
“When you are playing for a league championship, that is tough (to deal) with the pressure of the situation.”
The Abes took a 15-7 lead on Jordan Kitna’s 21-yard touchdown strike to Dehonta Hayes with 5:19 to go in the third quarter – but the Rams came right back on Isaiah Simpson’s 75-yard kickoff return for a touchdown 14 seconds later.
“This was a showcase of athletes in Tacoma, both on their side and ours,” Kitna said. “A lot of speed.”
And Scarpaci did complete an 18-yard pass to tight end AJ Ruffin to get the Rams in field goal range early in the fourth quarter. Alec Greenleaf converted a 25-yard field goal to give the Rams their only lead, 16-15, with 9:20 remaining.
Johnson returned the ensuing kickoff 55 yards, and the Abes went the remaining 25 yards on four plays – capped by Johnson’s 14-yarder around the right end.
Of the Abes’ 148 yards in the second half, 115 came on the ground, led by Miller, Hayes and Dionte Simon.
“I don’t feel we played our best football. For us, that doesn’t bode well,” Kitna said. “We’ve got to go back and fix a lot of things. For us, we feel our ceiling is to win football games, and go to the playoffs from this league.”
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442