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 firstname.lastname@example.org