The game went down to the wire, but in the end, No. 3 Lincoln outlasted No. 4 Bethel in the 3A Pierce County League title game at Lincoln Bowl on Friday night. Here are five takeaways from the Abes’ big win.
LINCOLN BACK ON TOP OF 3A PCL
A year after conceding the league title to Lakes, Lincoln (7-2 overall, 7-0 PCL 3A) is once again the league champion after Friday night’s win over Bethel (6-3, 6-1), with boys team coming into the game with undefeated records in league play.
“It was tough for us last year, not getting to the league championship,” said Lincoln coach Masaki Matsumoto. “Our kids did a great job of getting it back. We coach them up and they all that but they’re the ones out here doing everything.”
Settling for runner-up last season didn’t sit well with the Abes.
“We felt like we got it taken away from us,” said Lincoln running back Abner Sio-Fetaui. “So we came out today and we wanted to take it back. We did that.”
Lincoln and Bethel exchanged blows in the first quarter, going into the second quarter tied 14-14. But then Lincoln put its foot on the gas in the second quarter, scoring on a Caden Filer 23-yard pass to Jasiah Snow-Marshall and a Julien Simon 1-yard run out of the Wildcat formation to take a 28-14 lead into the half.
But Bethel fought back in the fourth quarter after a sloppy, scoreless third quarter for both teams, when Braves’ quarterback Kekoa Visperas hit a wide-open Cameron Parker for a 78-yard score to pull Bethel within a touchdown.
Then Lincoln rattled off a nine-play, 65-yard scoring drive — capped off by a Sio-Fetaui 12-yard score — to seal the win.
“Last year, we came into the championship thinking it was a given that we were going to get it and we got that taken away from us,” said Lincoln receiver Jasiah Snow-Marshall. “We just knew we wanted it back. We knew coming into this game we were going to do whatever it takes to get it back.”
SIO-FETAUI IS A WORKHORSE FOR THE ABES
The senior running back carried the ball 19 times for 166 yards and the game-sealing touchdown in the win. The past two weeks, Sio-Fetaui has come into his own and has been featured more prominently in the offense. Matsumoto said his blend of speed and power make him a difficult player to slow down.
“He’s one of the best running backs in the state,” Matsumoto said. “He’s proving it. … He has the vision, cuts well. The thing with him, he’s super quick but he’s also powerful. He works hard in the weight room. He’s going to be a tough guy to stop in the playoffs.”
It’s safe to say Sio-Fetaui doesn’t mind the increased workload in the offense as of late.
“If my team wants to use me, I’m down,” he said. “I’m willing to do anything for my team.”
Lincoln receiver Jaylen Clark said the Abes feed off Sio-Fetaui’s energy.
“He’s a whole different monster on the field,” Clark said. “He’s one of the most humble dudes you’d know. … He’s a hard worker. He’ll never take no for an answer. You can trust him in the backfield — you know he’s going to run hard every play.”
LINCOLN’S RECEIVERS CAN ALL GET IT DONE
Good luck trying to slow this group down; there are a lot of different weapons at Filer’s disposal. In Friday night’s win, Jaylen Clark caught four passes for 105 yards and a touchdown (and also had an interception on defense). Sio-Fetaui had four catches for 29 yards. Julien Simon had a catch for 25 yards and Jasiah Snow-Marshall had a big game, catching four passes for 76 yards and two touchdowns.
“A lot of film, a lot of studying, a lot of practice,” Snow-Marshall said of his big night. “We just knew they were going to go Cover 1. It was a big game for the outside receivers. We knew we had the guys to win 1-on-1 matchups.”
Matsumoto said Snow-Marshall has been a playmaker all season for the Abes.
“We thought he would have a big game tonight,” Matsumoto said. “We thought he would have some matchups that would be favorable. He runs great routes. We have good receivers but he probably has the best hands.”
BALANCE MAKES LINCOLN A CONTENDER
Lincoln can win running the ball exclusively all game, which it showed in last week’s win against Lakes, throwing the ball most of the time, which it’s done plenty over the past few years, or as Friday night’s win over Bethel showed, with a steady balance of both.
Lincoln ran the ball 29 times on Friday for 196 yards and two touchdowns and Filer completed 14-of-21 passes for 249 yards and three touchdowns in the win.
“When other teams game plan, it’s really like: Pick your poison,” Clark said. “We’re deadly both running and passing. If we’re going to have to run the ball hard 50 times and only throw the ball four times, then that’s what we’re going to do. A win is a win. That’s the mindset that we have.”
And that mindset shows maturity in this year’s squad, with players seemingly less concerned about individual statistics and accolades than they maybe were in the past.
“I’m 100 percent more confident (in this year’s team),” Clark said. “I feel like it’s more of a team feel this year. More of the wins we’ve been having are more team wins.”
BETHEL WILL BE A PROBLEM FOR OPPONENTS IN THE POSTSEASON
The loss to Lincoln did nothing to dispel the belief that Bethel is a legitimate top-five program. Remember, no team this year has played Class 4A title contender Kennedy Catholic tougher than the Braves did in the season opener at CenturyLink Field.
Quarterback Kekoa Visperas has been quietly putting together an impressive season. On Friday, he completed 12-of-22 passes for three touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Bethel, similar to Lincoln, has the playmakers at receiver to match any team in the state.
Puka Sokimi hauled in five passes for 77 yards and a touchdown against Lincoln; Cameron Parker had three catches for 95 yards and a touchdown and Will Latu caught a pass for an 18-yard touchdown. Latu also rushed nine times for 53 yards.
Peter Latu had a relatively quiet night, but has shown plenty of big-play ability in his career at Bethel. If everything clicks for the Braves in the playoffs, this team has the talent to beat any team in the state.