Lincoln High School football has advanced to the Class 3A state playoffs six times in program history.
During five of those trips — including each of the past three seasons — the Abes (8-3) have been bounced from the playoffs by a 3A Metro League team.
That unfortunate streak continued Friday night, as the sixth-seeded Lincoln dropped its opening round matchup to No. 11 seed Rainier Beach, 14-7, at Lincoln Bowl in Tacoma.
Rainier Beach’s speed and athleticism consistently resulted in big plays on offense, and reliable stops on defense.
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Vikings junior quarterback Trey Morris carved up Lincoln’s defense for 302 yards and two touchdowns on an impressive 21 of 24 passing. And Rainier Beach (6-3) allowed just seven first downs and 150 yards to the Abes’ offense.
“They were very aggressive,” Lincoln coach Masaki Matsumoto said. “They outplayed us.”
It was no surprise that Matsumoto, in his fourth season with the Abes, was frustrated to be paired with Metro League team again, and especially one that played for a state title less than a year ago.
“They’ve been doing great things for the past few years,” Matsumoto said. “They went to the state finals last year, so obviously they’re a good program.
“We were definitely worried. We weren’t the happiest program in the world when we found out that was our first round (matchup).”
Matsumoto said he believes the Metro League — which has three teams through to the quarterfinals in top-seeded Eastside Catholic, No. 2 seed O’Dea and Rainier Beach — is the best in the state, apart from the 4A KingCo.
And he has reason to — the league has been Lincoln’s biggest stumbling block in recent years. The Abes are 1-5 in the state playoffs against Metro League teams, dating back to the program’s first state playoff appearance in 2003.
Last season, the Abes lost an opening-round game to a Garfield team that featured reigning TNT state player of the year Tre’Shaun Harrison, who is now playing as a true freshman at Florida State.
The year before that, running back Jamyn Patu, who walked on with the Washington Huskies this season, rushed for 255 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and O’Dea ended Lincoln’s season in the quarterfinals.
In 2014, it was Eastside Catholic that knocked Lincoln out in the quarterfinals. Ballard did the same in 2013.
Perhaps the most maddening piece — all of these losses have been by one possession. Metro League schools have an average margin of victory of is 6.4 points.
“We just have to do better,” Matsumoto said. “And it starts with me.”
Lincoln looked somewhat steady at first against the Vikings. The Abes defense forced two turnovers on downs after Rainier Beach drove deep into their territory, only to have the offense punt twice.
Morris led the Vikings on a seven-play, 46-yard scoring drive on the next possession, and capped it with an 11-yard strike over the middle to Samol Sok, ending a scoreless game with nine minutes, 41 seconds remaining in the first half.
Lincoln quarterback Caden Filer threw incomplete three times to end the Abes’ next offensive series. His third pass of the drive, on fourth-and-13, was tipped into the air and picked off.
Chaun Hollins returned the interception 75 yards for an apparent score, but it was called back on a holding penalty.
Morris threw a 77-yard touchdown pass to A’Skari Davis on the next play. Davis blew by an Abes cornerback, and both safeties, hauled in the pass and sped into the end zone untouched.
Morris, who took over the starting job midway through the season, in the second half of a loss to Bishop Blanchet, had 252 of his passing yards by the break against Lincoln, and had as many touchdown passes as incompletions at that point.
“My goal was just to get our offense running,” Morris said. “Our offense wasn’t running as smoothly at the beginning of the season. I just wanted to pick our offense up and get us deep in the playoffs.”
Lincoln crossed midfield just once in the first half, never reached the red zone, and had to hold off another promising Rainier Beach drive just before the half expired. Jibril Abdulalim was tackled inches short of the end zone on an 18-yard pass from Morris as the buzzer sounded.
“Our defense was making stops. Our offense was not putting up points like we should have,” Morris said. “Our defense was giving our offense life tonight.”
Lincoln’s only score came midway through the third quarter after the Abes defense forced a fumble at the Rainier Beach 4.
The Vikings held on three consecutive plays before Abner SioFetaui finally punched in a 1-yard score.
The Abes never crossed midfield after that score, going three-and-out twice and turning the ball over on downs with less than four minutes to play, when Jaydion Laster was stuffed for no gain on fourth-and-1.
Filer was limited to 5 of 17 passing for 66 yards and the one interception, and the Abes didn’t have a single rusher or receiver reach 50 yards of offense.
Rainier Beach outgained Lincoln, 416-150, and picked up first downs on runs of 14, 11 and 12 yards on its final possession to run out the clock.
“We’re just being overlooked this year,” Morris said. “We’re showing that Beach is really here to play.”
Rainier Beach travels to meet the winner of Saturday’s game between Squalicum and Mountain View next week.
Lincoln’s season ends short of the Tacoma Dome for the sixth time in school history, and the Abes could only watch as another Metro League celebrated on their home field.
“Our kids were reslilient,” Matsumoto said. “We went through a lot of ups and downs — injuries, off-field stuff, grades — and they didn’t quit. They fought through, and they stuck together.”
NO. 11 RAINIER BEACH
NO. 6 LINCOLN
RB – Samol Sok 11 pass from Trey Morris (Noah Debela kick)
RB – A’Skari Davis 77 pass from Morris (Debela kick)
L – Abner SioFetaui 1 run (Gabriel Foster kick)
Passing: RB – Morris 21-24-0-302. L – Caden Filer 5-17-1-66.
Rushing: RB – Xzavier Burton 16-75; Xavier Bowen 1-29; Ja’Mezz Johnson 3-8; Day’Jon Brooks 1-11; Sok 3-10; De’Monte Brooks 5-(-4); Jihad Abdul-Haqq 1-(-7); Morris 8-(-18). L – Julien Simon 12-46; Jeddiah Hayes 3-19; SioFetaui 4-17; Filer 3-2; Jaydion Laster 1-0.
Receiving: RB – Davis 1-77; Burton 3-60; Kobe Elleby 5-52; Sok 5-50; Jibril Abdulalim 1-18; Sammy King 1-18; Johnson 3-17; Orin Patu 1-11; Bowen 1-(-1). L – David Sweeney 1-42; Romere Williams 2-11; Mykell Campbell 1-9; Jaylen Clark 1-4.