Oak Grove bounces back, tops Lincoln Prep
By Toriano Porter PrepsKC Staff Writer
Lincoln Prep wanted a true early-season test against a non-league opponent.
Consider Oak Grove the instructor.
The Panthers pounded the ball for 414 yards rushing in a 44-18 win over the host Blue Tigers Friday at Interscholastic League Stadium.
Oak Grove’s size and speed was a distinct advantage against Lincoln. The disparity didn’t surprise Blue Tigers’ head coach Henry Newell, whose team fell to score facing a 1-and-goal from the Panthers 2-yard line with a little more than 3 minutes to go before half down by 17 points.
“That killed us,” Newell said. “First half we had a chance to score twice so we lost 14 points. Second half we had a couple of breakdowns on defense and they capitalized. Overall, I thought we played - that’s a good football team. That’s the best team we will see all year and we competed with them. The sky will be the limit.”
Panthers head coach Pat Richard was pleased with a ground attack that produced 230 yards rushing in the first half on route to a 20-3 lead. By contrast, Lincoln Prep carried the ball 21 times for a total of 146 yards in the opening 24 minutes.
The Blue Tigers finished the game with 236 yards rushing as a team.
“We had a good week of practice,” Richard said. “I thought this was our best week of practice since we started. Coach (Newell) does such a good job with those guys. They have some great kids. Physically they’re great. They’re big and they’re fast, but they are all going both ways. We had to get some sort of advantage and wear them out.”
Senior running back Aaron Graham displayed a nice array of running skills for the Panthers, who improved to 2-1 on the young season. Graham tallied 198 yards and four touchdowns on 17 carries. He had touchdown runs of 1, 61, 30, and 19 yards.
Fellow running back Landon Cairer added 144 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
“Coming off a loss last week (to O’Hara), practice was 10 times better and 10 times harder,” Graham said. “We worked hard. We were focused. We knew we had to step up our mentality and everything. We were kind of asleep, but we woke up and I’m happy for us.”
Lincoln Prep’s Colandus Rucker led the Blue Tigers with 167 yards rushing and a touchdown on 21 carries. A 54-yard burst on his first carry lit a fuse for Lincoln, but they couldn’t sustain the momentum and settled for a first-quarter field goal.
“It’s a lesson learned,” Rucker said of the loss. “It prepares us for the rest of the season. By far one of the best teams that we’ll play and it’ll prepare us for the future.”
Lincoln Prep, 2-1 overall and 2-1 in the IL, will try to get back on track next week with another non-conference game against Center.
“It’s a big game,” Newell said. “If we get by them - and they’ll be good - we’re going to roll.”
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