The 2017 football season began the same way the 2016 season ended for the Lincoln Abes — with a loss to state-power O’Dea.
The Fighting Irish defeated the Abes 23-21 at Husky Stadium in part of Saturday’s Emerald City Kickoff Classic, an annual event hosted by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.
Both Lincoln and O’Dea came into the season ranked in the top five in the initial Associated Press poll – the Abes fourth and the Fighting Irish second, and both teams proved themselves worthy of their ranking. Lincoln struck first, reaching the end zone on a nine-play, 77-yard drive that ended with sophomore quarterback Caden Filer scoring on a 3-yard quarterback keeper.
O’Dea’s defense stiffened after giving up the initial score, not allowing another point until midway through the fourth quarter.
“They made some good adjustments, like any great coaching staff would,” Lincoln coach Masaki Matsumoto said. “I think a little bit of fatigue and mistakes on both sides of the ball (played a role in the loss), but I was very proud of the kids who stuck with it, fought back and almost made a great comeback and the coaching staff, we did a great job of rallying them.”
A loss to start the season isn’t exactly what the Abes had in mind, but Matsumoto said lessons can be learned from the defeat.
“A loss is always good because then we can find out what are weaknesses are, and then our kids and our coaching staff won’t get complacent because we know we’ve got to get better,” he said.
The Fighting Irish trailed 7-3 at halftime, but took control of the game in the second half thanks to their relentless rushing attack. Senior Jamyn Patu led the way with 17 carries for 140 yards and a touchdown.
Patu’s touchdown put O’Dea ahead 23-14 in the fourth quarter. Lincoln narrowed the gap to 23-21 when senior Samaad Turner scored on a 50-yard fumble recovery, but time ran out on the Abes’ effort to finish the comeback.
A bright spot for the Abes was their defense. Though it gave up points late in the second half when fatigue might have been an issue – the Abes have just 42 players on their roster – it was quick to the ball and set the tone for the team in the first half.
“We felt good about the game plan,” Matsumoto said. “The coaching staff of putting it together and the kids did a great job of practicing it, studying it and executing it. They just outlasted us a little bit. It’s not just X’s and O’s we have to fix, we have to condition and get tougher and it starts with me.”
Filer started the game at quarterback for the Abes, but split time with senior Jaylen Antoine. Matsumoto said he hadn’t determined yet who would be the starter in the future.
“We’ll see,” he said. “We’ll watch film and figure it out.”