Lin­coln Sopho­mores Carry Chip

Washington County Enterprise-Leader - - SPORTS - By Mark Humphrey

LIN­COLN — Dis­ap­point­ing losses after hold­ing leads in ju­nior high at home on new turf last year to Gravette (28-26), Shiloh Chris­tian (16-15) and Prairie Grove (14-13) mo­ti­vate Lin­coln’s sopho­more class.

Lin­coln’s tal­ented sopho­more class, which has cre­ated an im­pact through­out the 2018 var­sity lineup, has helped the Wolves (8-2, 5-2 4A-1) al­ready clinch a play­off berth com­ing into week 10.

Noe Avel­laneda

In week 10 sopho­more slot re­ceiver Noe Avel­laneda’s 8 re­cep­tions for 121 yards came in crit­i­cal sit­u­a­tions en­abling Lin­coln to sus­tain drives and score touch­downs. He has a 28-yard score and gains of 27 and 22 on pass plays. The sopho­more is a stu­dent of the game, and last year’s frus­tra­tion is some­thing he wanted to rec­tify by mak­ing the state play­offs.

“That’s re­ally mo­ti­va­tion think­ing about those games, that was re­ally heart-break­ing to us,” Avel­laneda said. “We worked re­ally hard to try and win those games. We all played hard, but it was those lit­tle mis­takes, false starts, hold­ing, you know, those lit­tle mis­takes will cost you a game; but I think about those games here and there and think about how I can do bet­ter. I go back and watch film on Hudl and I see what can I do if I have to run the ball. What can I do bet­ter to get bet­ter at it? It’s just some­thing you just have to live with now, and you have to keep mov­ing for­ward and hope­fully you and your team will be able to go to the place you want to go and make the goals and things.”

Levi Wright

Lin­coln sopho­more Levi Wright (6-4, 245) broke into the start­ing lineup at both tight end and mid­dle line­backer, be­fore be­com­ing a fix­ture at de­fen­sive tackle. Wright’s good hands and de­sire to catch the foot­ball prompted coaches to switch him from the of­fen­sive line to tight end where he has shown good mo­bil­ity for his size.

“I’ve slimmed up and got a lit­tle more mus­cle, a lot stronger,” Wright said. “I went from squat­ting like 230 to 315, 330.”

Against Prairie Grove, Wright caught 3 passes for 22 yards, in­clud­ing one quar­ter­back Caleb Lloyd got off while be­ing pulled down by Tiger de­fend­ers. Wright’s catch turned what would have been lost yardage into a pos­i­tive gain.

Through the first eight games Wright av­er­aged a team-high 14.7-yards-per-re­cep­tion on 18 catches for 246 yards in­clud­ing touch­downs of 6 and 2 yards at Keys, Okla., in week two. Wright had 1 catch for 36 yards against Su­bi­aco.

Last sea­son the ju­nior Wolves were ex­pected to con­tend for the con­fer­ence ti­tle, but ex­pe­ri­enced all sorts of ad­ver­sity in los­ing three games at home in the fi­nal sec­onds.

“We all think about that ev­ery day,” Levi said. “We were con­tend­ing and messed up a play here and there and it’s the small things. Small things count, maybe a missed field goal, let them get a two-point con­ver­sion in the clutch, it’s just bad stuff. The whole team was down after it, but some­times Coach (Reed Men­doza) took the blame for it. This year, I feel like we’re go­ing to go a long way even with in­juries.”

Kris Martinez

Lin­coln sopho­more Kris Martinez (5-8, 255) reg­u­larly faces dou­ble-teams while play­ing nose guard on de­fense. He con­cen­trates on get­ting past one man at a time to dis­rupt the dou­bleteam.

“Against Prairie Grove (last year in ju­nior high) I beat them off the ball and got a tackle for a five-yard loss in the back­field,” Martinez said. “Against Ber­ryville I got one of those as well. I don’t think I’m the best. I don’t think any of that. It’s just a work in progress ev­ery day, just got to keep work­ing.”

Early in the sea­son Martinez stated, “I hope our boys do good this year and we make it to state, state all the way,” ex­plain­ing, “Our team goal is to fin­ish the foot­ball game, win some ball­games and make it to state. That’s one of our big goals as sopho­mores. We all came to­gether, we made a goal to go to state. This is to be the group that’s the first since 2015 that’s made state.”

They have ac­com­plished that goal and Lin­coln will make its fifth ap­pear­ance in the state play­offs at Ham­burg Fri­day. Not sat­is­fied with sim­ply mak­ing the state play­offs, the sopho­mores are tak­ing a cue from se­nior quar­ter­back Caleb Lloyd, and striv­ing to win in the play­offs.

Col­lec­tive Drive

Avel­laneda said his class has taken those ju­nior high neg­a­tive ex­pe­ri­ences and tried to turn that dis­ap­point­ment into some­thing pos­i­tive by us­ing it as mo­ti­va­tion.

“Those games that we lost by one or two points, we try to think about it and we try to talk to each other,” Avel­laneda said. “Those are beau­ti­ful games. We can do it. We got to play to­gether as a team and keep mov­ing for­ward and not let no­body down, do your job.”

Last week Lin­coln’s de­fense yielded 547 yards of to­tal of­fense to Prairie Grove, but only 13 points in the sec­ond half. Of­fen­sively, the Wolves ex­celled at fin­ish­ing drives and scor­ing, rack­ing up 687 yards of to­tal of­fense and outscor­ing Prairie Grove by nearly a 2-to-1 mar­gin in the sec­ond half (25-13).

“We got to fin­ish ev­ery game,” Avel­laneda said. “Ev­ery time we got in the red zone last year, we never re­ally moved it that good. We had some bad snaps, but we all make mis­takes. We just got to keep our heads up and keep mov­ing and we can’t let those lit­tle mis­takes hap­pen, and we just got to get bet­ter at it.”

If last week is any in­di­ca­tion, the Wolves are well on their way to suc­cess.

RANDY MOLL NWA NEWS­PA­PERS

Lin­coln se­nior quar­ter­back Caleb Lloyd at­tempts to con­nect with a re­ceiver dur­ing play in Pi­o­neer Sta­dium against Gen­try High School on Oct. 26. Lin­coln won 38-13. The Wolves take on Ham­burg in a road play­off game this Fri­day at 7 p.m.

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