Lincoln Sophomores Carry Chip
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.