Jordan Kitna knew it was a matter of time before the abundance of talent on the Lincoln High School football team would strike a chord in this state.
The junior quarterback threw for 271 yards and five touchdowns, increasing his state-best total to 54, Jayson Williams caught four passes for 146 yards and a score and the No. 6 Abes toppled third-ranked O’Dea, 35-30, at Lincoln Bowl on Friday to advance to the state quarterfinals against Eastside Catholic.
“It’s crazy, but we’ve been expecting this,” Kitna said. “We have the guys. We have all the talent in the world and now people are just starting to find out about us.”
Though it’s Lincoln’s second state appearance since 1973 and first under third-year coach Jon Kitna, the Abes rolled to a 21-point lead after the first play of the third quarter on Jordan Kitna’s 38-yard pass to Dehonta Hayes.
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This was against a team that was appearing in the state tournament for a 20th consecutive year. And Lincoln held off O’Dea despite Myles Gaskin, a University of Washington-bound running back, running for 157 yards and three touchdowns and throwing for a 63-yard score as well.
Jon Kitna entered the program three years ago and proclaimed that he wanted it to be relevant statewide in five years and nationwide in 10.
It’s ahead of Kitna’s timeline.
“We are in the conversation,” Kitna said. “That’s what we wanted to do when we got here.”
Lincoln needed a little more than a minute to strike first.
Jordan Kitna threw a quick pass to Williams the first play of the game and the Curtis transfer took it 74 yards to the Irish 6. Kitna took a sack, but then hit Alvin Johnson on the next play for a touchdown.
O’Dea hoped to respond with the ball near midfield toward the end of the first quarter.
But fullback Kyle Hollabaugh was hit almost immediately on a carry up the middle, fumbled the ball and Lincoln’s Joey Sinclair jumped on it to set the Abes up at the O’Dea 41.
Next play — Kitna threw across the middle to Williams, who hurdled a defender near the 15, sprinted then plunged into the end zone. Touchdown.
On the other side, O’Dea just wasn’t moving the football. Not with Lincoln’s defense locked in on Gaskin.
But the Irish forced a turnover on downs at Lincoln’s 44 in the second quarter and Gaskin finally broke loose. First with a 15-yard run, then later punching through a hole to find the end zone and get O’Dea on the scoreboard with 2 minutes, 33 seconds to go in the first half.
Lincoln wasn’t fazed. It looked to be a momentum swing for O’Dea, but Kitna hit Williams, again, this time for 30 yards, to help set up a 17-yard touchdown pass to Tony Archie with 31.1 seconds remaining. And Williams intercepted a deep pass the ensuing drive to send the Abes into halftime with a 21-7 lead.
In the second half, after recovering an Irish fumble on the kickoff, Kitna then found Hayes for the 38-yard TD strike.
But O’Dea bounced back. Gaskin ran 39 yards for a score on the following possession, intercepted a Kitna pass that led to a field goal and hit Mikel Owes on a 63-yard halfback pass for a TD.
“He’s a great running back, so he’s going to get a couple every now and then,” said Lincoln senior linebacker Justiss Warren. “There’s really no way you can game plan for him. You just have to try to bottle him up as much as you can.”
Then the Irish recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and Gaskin punched it in from 1-yard out to make it 35-30 with 11:12 to go in the fourth quarter.
But O’Dea, despite having its chances, couldn’t take the final leap and overtake Lincoln for the lead. The Irish got the ball back at the Abes 5 with 25.6 seconds to go, but a big run and sack ended the game, sending the Abes to the state quarterfinals.
“I think this means more for our community and to these kids, these men, and the families attached to them,” Jon Kitna said. “Football is football. It’s going to come and go. But there is symbolism in this win.”