An early exit

Rid­ing a six-game win streak in­to the post­season, the Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln foot­ball squad was stunned to lose in the first round of the play­offs.

Lin­coln’s Mar­quise Mc­Far­land stiff arms Ger­man­town’s Aaron Boyd dur­ing a play­off game on Fri­day, Oc­to­ber 28. Ger­man­town won 32-27. Kev­in Cook/for the Times

For the Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln foot­ball team, the stars seemed to be per­fectly align­ing just in time for a ma­gic­al post­season run.

Hav­ing dropped their first two games of the sea­son, the Railsplit­ters had reeled off six con­sec­ut­ive vic­tor­ies head­ing in­to their first-round play­off game with Ger­man­town, a team Lin­coln de­feated on Sept. 16. 

It was hard to ima­gine things not go­ing Lin­coln’s way. 

After all, they were show­cas­ing a dom­in­ant de­fense that al­lowed just 38 points dur­ing the win streak, in­clud­ing a three-game stretch when the de­fens­ive unit al­lowed just two points. Com­bine that with the fact that the Railsplit­ter of­fense, led by run­ning backs Mar­quise “Marty” Mc­Far­land and Joshua Mc­Clam and quar­ter­back Miguel Sanc­hez, was av­er­aging al­most 28 points a game and it was hard to en­vi­sion an un­happy end­ing for this team.

But that’s what happened.

On Fri­day night, the Railsplit­ters and Ger­man­town played a thrill­ing re­match that came down to the wire on the score­board. In this first-round game, Lin­coln entered the fi­nal quarter cling­ing to a 27-26 lead. But with 2:56 re­main­ing, Ger­man­town quar­ter­back Cedric Wright found wideout Myles Brook­er for a 15-yard touch­down strike to end Lin­coln’s play­off run, 32-27.

ldquo;We knew it was go­ing to be a tough game, one in which we’d have to play close to per­fect if we wanted to win,” second-year Lin­coln coach Ed Mc­Get­tigan said from his of­fice on Monday morn­ing. “For the most part, we played ex­actly like we wanted to. Un­for­tu­nately, they just had the ball last. They didn’t show us any­thing we haven’t seen be­fore … they just made a play at the end of the game that made it their vic­tory in­stead of ours.”

Up to that point, it could have been either team’s game. Lin­coln’s Mc­Far­land (15 car­ries, 106 yards) had two rush­ing touch­downs to counter an 80-yard kick­off-re­turn score for Ger­man­town’s Bears, giv­ing the Railsplit­ters a 14-6 lead after one quarter.

The teams then traded scores, with Lin­coln’s high­lights be­ing a Sanc­hez pass to seni­or re­ceiv­er Sin­cere Merced and a Sanc­hez 1-yard rush­ing score that gave Lin­coln the 27-26 lead late in the third quarter.

“Our de­fense has car­ried us all year and al­lowed us to go on that win streak,” Mc­Get­tigan said. “I did not see them put­ting up thirty-two points on us, that’s for sure. Earli­er in the week I was asked how many of­fens­ive touch­downs it would take for us to win, and I said three. We got four of them and it wasn’t good enough. They played to their strengths, ran the ball on us and got the spot passes here and there that were enough to win them the game.”

When Lin­coln beat the Bears, 19-14, dur­ing the sea­son’s third week, the Railsplit­ters frus­trated Ger­man­town’s vaunted run­ning game, led by Aaron Boyd and Ack­eno Robertson. Robertson man­aged just 15 yards; Boyd was held un­der 100. 

This time around, Robertson had 50 yards and re­turned a kick­off for a touch­down. Boyd had his best game of the sea­son, amass­ing 156 yards on just 18 car­ries. The duo ac­coun­ted for three of the Bears’ five scores in the game. 

“Ger­man­town is very good when they run the ball suc­cess­fully, and they did that to us,” Mc­Get­tigan said. “Dur­ing the week, we said if we could stop their run­ning game again, then we were go­ing to win the game. We couldn’t stop them the whole time, and when we did stop them, their quar­ter­back came up with a couple of big plays, in­clud­ing on the win­ning touch­down.”

Though de­flated by the play­off loss, the Railsplit­ters have to pump them­selves up for three more games, in­clud­ing the Thanks­giv­ing sea­son fi­nale against Fath­er Judge. Lin­coln will play Samuel Fels on Fri­day be­fore meet­ing an op­pon­ent to be de­term­ined the fol­low­ing week.

How will they re­spond fol­low­ing such a crush­ing de­feat?

“Really, I don’t know how it’s go­ing to go,” Mc­Get­tigan said. “I know that they’re emo­tion­ally drained after los­ing that game. To go from that high of pos­sibly win­ning with three minutes left to los­ing the game … it was like their dreams had died. They were crushed. 

“It’s go­ing to be hard for us to get them pumped up after that, but we’re go­ing to go with our or­din­ary routine and have a lot of fun in prac­tice,” he ad­ded.

Mc­Get­tigan is con­fid­ent, though, that his team won’t fade in­to ob­li­vi­on be­cause of that Ger­man­town loss. After a 5-7 sea­son in his in­aug­ur­al year as coach, Mc­Get­tigan helped or­ches­trate a turn­around that has made Lin­coln a con­sist­ently com­pet­it­ive squad in the Pub­lic League.

A new school build­ing, as well as a state-of-the-art play­ing field, has con­trib­uted to a more pos­it­ive at­mo­sphere on Ry­an Av­en­ue. The school’s head foot­ball coach and ath­let­ic dir­ect­or can sense the ex­cite­ment on cam­pus.

And one oth­er thing — the Railsplit­ters still have some foot­ball to play.

“We’ll pre­pare just like we did for the play­off game. We really don’t want to change any­thing,” Mc­Get­tigan said. “If we can re-cap­ture that in­tens­ity that we showed dur­ing the streak, then there’s still a lot of good to come. Thank­fully, we get to keep play­ing, and we def­in­itely have a lot of good foot­ball left in us.” ••

Re­port­er Ed Mor­rone can be reached at ed­ward.mor­

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