East rallies past Lincoln Prep for IL title
By Toriano Porter PrepsKC Staff Writer
Lincoln Prep started the second quarter of its Interscholastic League finale against East with a seven-point lead.
Facing a fourth and 6 two plays into the stanza, the Blue Tigers were denied a first down by a stingy Bear defense and what was once a 14-0 lead turned into a 15-14 deficit.
The stance would be East’s battle cry the entire evening as the upstart Bears turned the momentum its way time and time again in a 40-35 win Thursday at IL Stadium.
The victory gave the Bears, 5-4 overall and 5-0 in the IL, the league title and set off a wild celebration on the East sideline before head coach Greg Smith took a business-like approach and ushered his team into the locker room for a more subdued round of congratulations.
“Lincoln is a great team,” Smith said. “They have a great coach (in Henry Newell), but it’s our year. It’s just something about this team. It was our year and we knew it.”
Smith provided some insight into why he ordered his team into the locker room moments after the final horn. There would be no grandstanding for the Bears on Thursday, he said.
“Getting them back focused for next week,” Smith said.
The Bears were led by senior quarterback DeWayne Charles, who used his legs and arms to account for half of the Bears six scores.
“It feels good to be a conference champion,” Charles said. “Coach said all year that if we listen, we could do it. It was hard, but we did it.”
Lincoln, the two-time defending league champion, hadn’t lost a league game in the last 11 tries. Now, 4-5 overall, the Blue Tigers finished 2-1 in IL play this season.
“They deserved to win,” Newell said. “They outplayed us, they outcoached us and they outhit us. My hat’s off to them.”
Trailing by one and accustomed to winning, the Blue Tigers didn’t fold after falling behind. They methodically ran the ball into East territory to set up a first and 10 from the Bears' 25-yard line with nearly four minutes left to play in the second.
Harris Frazier’s pass to Isaac Smith for 22 yards gave the Blue Tigers a first and goal. Kalyn Davis finished off the drive with a 3-yard score to put Lincoln back in front 20-15 with 3 minutes, 19 seconds left before halftime.
East fumbled the following kickoff with Lincoln taking over at the East 24. Soon Lincoln faced another fourth down but elected for a 37-yard field goal attempt that was unsuccessful.
On second and 9 from the 21, the Bears' Xanthanus Pierro caught a diving, acrobatic 47-yard pass from DeWayne Charles to set up first and 10 from the 33 to kick start the two-minute drill.
Another sliding catch by Pierro to the 1 gave East a first and goal with 19.5 seconds before the break.
Charles scored on a sneak one play later and with a successful extra point East seemingly were about to take a 22-20 lead into the locker room.
However, Lincoln's Duane Clayton took a pitch from a teammate on a squib kickoff and zig-zagged his way to an 87-yard touchdown return that wobbled the Bears and their Senior Night/Homecoming faithful of fans.
A successful two-point conversion made the score 28-22 in favor of Lincoln as the teams headed to a brief ceremony to honor seniors on both teams and the East homecoming court.
East started the third quarter and marched to the 26 of Lincoln, but the Bears threw an interception to stymie their drive.
A determined Bear defense forced a fumble on the next play.
Yet another sliding catch from Pierro and a couple of scrambles from Charles helped set up first and goal from the 3 at the 8 minute mark of the third quarter.
Lincoln swarmed Charles on fourth down to preserve their six-point lead and give the Blue Tigers the ball at their own 5.
East then forced a punt, took over on the Lincoln 45, and proceeded on another trip to the red zone.
On first and goal from the 1-yard line, East tied the score on another score from Charles with 1:43 left in the third.
“I just had to listen to my coach and do what I had to do,” Charles said.
East failed to take the lead with a missed extra point kick, but forced another turnover on the next possession.
The fumble recovery gave East a first down from the Lincoln 30 as the quarter neared an end.
Four plays into the final quarter, East faced a fourth and 5 from the 10 but Charles picked up five yards on the ground to extend the drive.
East struck again on a jet sweep from Ronnell Hatchett from three yards out.The extra point was blocked, leaving the Bears ahead 34-28 with 10 minutes left.
The deficit didn't keep Lincoln down long. The Blue Tigers drove to the East 7-yard line before East’s David Wilson picked off a Frazier pass and returned it to the 34 with 7 minutes left on the clock.
Lincoln's defense stiffened to force another punt. The Blue Tigers took over at their own 43 with 5:05 remaining but Davis' 52-yard scoring run was nullified by a holding call.
Lincoln started again at the 40 with a first and 14, but no sweat for Davis, who followed with a 41-yard scoring run on a similar play.
The touchdown tied it, and Adrian Ruiz-Gonzales’ extra point put Lincoln in front 35-34 with 3:07 remaining.
Hatchett’s 67-yard kickoff return gave the Bears a first and 10 from the Lincoln 32.
From there East advanced the ball as close as Lincoln's 16 before Charles found Adrian Orozco all alone in the end zone for a touchdown.
With the score 40-35 in favor of East, the Bears failed two-point conversion left Lincoln needing only a touchdown to win it with 1:45 left.
“All of our games have kind of been like that,” Smith said. “Nothing fazes us right now.”
Lincoln gained possession at their own 13, and needed to make up 87 yards in less than two minutes, a feat that would come up short as East dethroned the Blue Tigers, setting off a raucous if not brief celebration on the East sideline.
“This (championship) is for them,” Smith said of a senior-laden team that endured a string of 22 losses in 23 games over a three-year period. “I want to win outside of the league. That’s where the respect comes. This is cool, but next week (in district play) is when we really want to win.”
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