IL title on the line

By Toriano Porter PrepsKC staff writer
Posted: October 7, 2016 - 3:45 PM

On Saturday, Lincoln Prep and Kansas City Central will tangle for the Interscholastic League title.

It’s been quite a ride for both teams in 2016; Lincoln started the season relatively inexperienced and got off to a 1-3 start. The Blue Tigers are now 4-3 overall on the season and 3-0 in league play.

Central, on the other hand, has been steady in its climb atop the IL standings. The Blue Eagles are 3-4 overall and 3-0 in the league. They started the year 2-1, including wins over league foes East and Northeast.

Put all of the backstory to the side, and what you have is a winner-takes-all tilt that both programs are looking forward to.

Lincoln Prep has won two league championships over the last three seasons. Central hasn’t staked claim to the IL title since 2003.

Central head coach Allen Supplee said a league championship would mean a great deal to everyone associated with the program and the school. It’s bigger than football, he said.

“Central is being re-born and everyone at the school has been challenged,” Supplee said. “This would let everyone know that we are trying to do our part.”

The Class 3 Blue Eagles are coming off a tough 29-24 loss to Class 5 Columbia Hickman, a game Supplee said his team was in from start to finish.

“I have been coaching high school football for 13 years and that was one of the top three games I have been associated with,” Supplee said. “Our kids figured out what being a true team is.  The score wasn’t in our favor but we didn’t lose.

“They fought hard until the final whistle and they proved to themselves that they could play with anyone.”

Supplee added Central has come a long way since its 36-8 Week 4 loss at Schlagle. Central was down only 12-8 in the third quarter when lighting caused a one-day delay.

That game, Supplee said, galvanized the team.

“We have work to do, but now these kids know that they can achieve the goals we set,” he said.

On a team that features just six seniors, Lincoln has grown up since its rough start. Head coach Henry Newell credits the team’s development to players buying in and trusting the process of getting better.

“The biggest difference between our team now and when we were 1-3 is experience, fundamentals, focus, and discipline,” Newell said. “We have been slowly cutting down penalties. Our young kids are getting more used to the speed of varsity football. We still don’t believe we have played our best football yet.”

A league title, Newell said, would be a great accomplishment for his young team since few people thought they would be in position to claim one. He said the team has taken a steady approach throughout the first seven weeks of the 2016 season.

“Our only goal is to improve from week to week,” Newell said.

As for Saturday’s showdown, Newell said the Blue Tigers will be ready. They are coming off a 48-14 pasting of East and sport a three-game winning streak.

“Central is another team that is bigger and faster than we are,” Newell said. “But it has been that way almost every week. We look forward to the challenge of playing Central.”