Earlier Friday, Lincoln High School football coach Masaki Matsumoto had a visitor – University of Washington coach Chris Petersen.
They discussed potential UW recruits, sure, but Petersen thought back to his first meeting with Matsumoto three years ago — when Matsumoto was in the middle of his first season in Tacoma — and asked how the transition from California coach to Lincoln coach has been.
“Oh, it’s way different,” Matsumoto said.
When they first met, Petersen had laid the groundwork to making the UW program his own after taking over for Steve Sarkisian in 2013. And at Lincoln, Matsumoto had his own doubts he could get his program to buy into him after taking over for alum and former NFL player Jon Kitna.
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“(Petersen) told me then that it takes 18-24 months to really feel like it’s your own program,” Matsumoto said. “That really stuck with me. At that point I was eight months in and wondering if I had made the right move and I was facing resistance. But that really stuck with me, especially coming from a guy like him because that’s something he experienced.
“So today I told him that really meant a lot to me when he told me that. And that now we finally feel like it’s our program.”
Kitna coached Lincoln to a league title before he took over Waxahachie in Texas. Since then? Matsumoto has coached the Abes to their fourth consecutive title and third under his tutelage with a 62-14 victory over Bonney Lake on Friday at Sunset Chev Stadium in Sumner.
The win secured No. 7 Lincoln (7-1) of the top seed from the 3A Pierce County League to the district playoffs despite one more regular-season game to play. Bethel and Lakes remain one game behind with their wins on Friday, but Lincoln owns the tiebreaker with wins over both teams.
Not that Lincoln is done here.
“We’re hungry,” said 6-foot-3, 280-pound junior lineman Giovonni White, one of the players Matsumoto said he talked to Petersen about. “All of us are hungry.”
So was senior running back and safety Tristian Kwon. He needed just 13 carries to run for 185 yards (14.2 yards per carry) and three touchdowns. He also caught a 12-yard touchdown pass in his first game since missing last week with a concussion.
“He made some nice runs and great cuts,” Matsumoto said. “The thing about him is he’s skinny, so you wouldn’t think he’d run people over or carry guys. But he put a lot of time in the weight room and he squats over 300 pounds.”
Kwon has 101 fewer carries than he did last season, when he ran for 1,580 yards. But Matsumoto felt Kwon had too many carries last year in the Abes’ 3A state quarterfinal run, when they lost to O’Dea. He’s also a standout safety on defense and a punt returner.
Now his legs are fresh – and Kwon wants the ball more.
“They were telling me they wanted to save me because last year they felt I had too many carries,” Kwon said. “I would say I disagree.
“Hey, I want to run the ball. But I also understand why they did it though.”
And Matsumoto seems to want to give it to him.
“He’s at the point right now where we need to start leaning on him,” he said.
It took 14 seconds for Lincoln to get its first touchdown. Bonney Lake opened the game with a squib kick that was snatched by Kavon Holden. He returned it 73 yards for a touchdown.
Lincoln then went up 14-0 when Kwon took his third carry of the game 66 yards for a score.
But then Bonney Lake showed it had maybe just a spark of that trademark late-season magic left.
On fourth down, quarterback Kaiden Hammond threw across the middle of the field to Braydon Tressler for a five-yard TD. And the Panthers followed by forcing a Lincoln three-and-out – after Lincoln’s turnover on downs led to Bonney Lake’s first TD.
And suddenly it was shades of 2015, when Bonney Lake ended Lincoln’s undefeated season in the first round of the 3A state playoffs. That was the first trip to the state quarterfinals in school history for the Panthers and they duplicated that run last year – two years after coach Jason Silbaugh orchestrated his team’s 0-5 start to a playoff trip.
And with Stadium losing to Lakes on Friday, Bonney Lake’s playoff hopes were alive if they could somehow beat the steamrolling Lincoln.
But after the defensive stop, with Bonney Lake looking to tie the game in the middle of the second quarter, Lincoln lineman Ezekiel Sayavong picked off a Bonney Lake screen pass.
The next play, sophomore quarterback Caden Filer found Mykel Campbell for a 30-yard TD and a 21-7 lead.
That was the start of six unanswered touchdowns for Lincoln, including three from Kwon.
And after shutting out their past three opponents, Lincoln has outscored teams in its past four wins 205-14. It has won seven consecutive games since a season-opening, 23-21, loss to O’Dea.
“It’s not even football – we all love each other,” White said. “I know every single one of these guys has my back. We hang out all the time on the weekends – all of us. That bond can’t be broken.
“We have good athletes. But we love each other, from the bottom of our hearts.”
And they want more than a league title.
“It’s nice for the kids, but we have way bigger goals,” Matsumoto said. “It’s a disappointment if we don’t win league with the offseason we put in. I’m happy for the kids and they love T-shirts and all that, but as a program and a coaching staff we have bigger goals.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677
NO. 7 LINCOLN ABES
BONNEY LAKE PANTHERS
L – Kavon Holden 73 kick return (Gabriel Foster kick)
L – Tristin Kwon 66 run (Foster kick)
BL – Braydon Tressler 5 pass from Kaiden Hammond (Tony Guerrero kick)
L – Mykel Campbell 30 pass from Caden Filer (Foster kick)
L – Tristian Kwon 12 pass from Jaylen Antoine (Foster kick)
L – Tristian Kwon 19 run (kick failed)
L – Abner Sio 45 run (Foster kick)
L – Tristian Kwon 2 run (Foster kick)
L – Jeddiah Hayes 30 run (Foster kick)
BL – Peyton Brock 45 fumble return (Guerrero kick)
L – Armoni Bashay 81 kick return (Foster kick)
RUSHING – Lincoln: Tristian Kwon 13-185; Abner Sio 2-50; Jeddiah Hayes 1-30. Bonney Lake: Kaiden Hammond 10-52; Adam Fahsel 15-46; Cody Coffey 8-21.
PASSING – Lincoln: Jaylen Antoine 6-9-0-76; Caden Filer 4-10-0-60. Bonney Lake: Kaiden Hammond 7-17-2-53; Adam Fahsel 1-1-0-38.
RECEIVING – Lincoln: Nick Goss 2-50; Julien Simon 2-34; Mykel Campbell 1-30; Kavon Holden 1-8. Jasiah Snow-Marshall 2-5; Tristian Kwon 2-4. Bonney Lake: Amitri Allen 2-49; Adam Fahsel 3-29; Braydon Tressler 2-11.