The Abraham Lincoln Railsplitters and Father Judge Crusaders both had quick postseason exits and are looking for a bit of redemption on Thanksgiving.
The teams have reason for optimism.
Lincoln has 24 seniors.
“The kids got experience last year as juniors. They’ve matured and grown up, and have a lot more confidence,” said coach Ed McGettigan. “We count on a lot of seniors on both sides of the ball.”
Father Judge coach Tom Coyle likes his team’s offense.
“We’re balanced,” he said. “We’re difficult to defend. We run the ball effectively. We don’t sling it a lot, but we pass for a high percentage.”
The teams will square off on Thursday, Nov. 24 on the turf at Lincoln’s Barfoot Bowl. Kickoff is at 10 a.m.
Lincoln hasn’t tasted victory on Thanksgiving since 1989, when the Railsplitters shut out the Crusaders, 7-0, in the snow.
Last year, Judge rolled to a 34-0 victory, its 21st in a row in the series. The Crusaders lead the all-time series, 32-3-1.
One bright spot for Lincoln in last year’s shutout was running back Marquise McFarland, who was named his team’s Most Valuable Player for the game. This season, McFarland rushed for 100-plus yards in games against Mastbaum and Germantown. He’s also caught 19 passes and has three interceptions. In all, he’s scored 15 touchdowns.
For Judge, quarterback Rob Daniels and running back Raul Quinones enjoyed nice Thanksgiving games last November, with Daniels passing for two touchdowns and Quinones running for 103 yards and a score.
Both are having nice seasons. Daniels has thrown for 1,472 yards and 11 touchdowns. Quinones has scored 14 touchdowns.
Lincoln (7-4) started the season with two losses before winning six in a row. The Railsplitters then suffered a devastating playoff loss to Germantown. They split two games entering the Thanksgiving finale.
The Lincoln players are fresher, McGettigan believes, because the team’s depth has limited the number of guys who have to play both ways.
Quarterback Miguel Sanchez has thrown for 1,094 yards. Joshua McClam has rushed for 12 touchdowns. The offensive line is anchored by Steve Torres, Miguel Torres and Damien Chin-Rose. Kicker Amir Alberouki has a strong leg.
“We had a bunch of kids returning, and they’ve put together a nice year,” said McGettigan, a 1988 Judge graduate.
“The offense has been moving the ball great,” added wide receiver Sincere Merced, who has caught 16 passes, including two for touchdowns.
Lincoln’s defense is led by linemen Rodney Hawkins and John Lewis, linebackers Darnell Davis and Mike Johnson and Merced, who plays cornerback.
“We’ve got to play our game,” said Merced, who has three interceptions. “The defense has been doing great. We’ve stopped most of the good running backs in the Public League.”
Stopping Quinones and Matt Smalley (17 touchdowns, including 13 rushing scores) and dealing with Judge’s size advantage will be major challenges.
History is also on Judge’s side.
“We don’t want to be the team to lose to Lincoln,” said senior defensive back/wide receiver Connor Donohoe.
Donohoe, who attended St. Jerome Elementary School, is the third boy in his family to play for Judge, following older brothers Tim and John. John Donohoe caught a touchdown pass in last year’s rout. Tim Donohoe, their father, also played in the game.
Though the game will be at Lincoln’s field, Judge always has a much bigger rooting sections.
“I’ve been coming my whole life. My dad always took us,” Connor Donohoe said.
Judge (6-4) has played a pretty tough schedule, with losses coming by one point to suburban power Council Rock South and to Catholic League Class AAAA finalists La Salle (twice) and Roman Catholic.
Standouts on defense have included linemen Shawn Hartigan, Anthony Walker and Eric Condron and punter Dave Faraldo. Condron, a two-way first-team All-Catholic selection, injured his knee in the last regular-season game against Archbishop Ryan, missed the playoff game against La Salle and is questionable for Thanksgiving.
On offense, John Landis leads with 23 receptions for 409 yards and three touchdowns.
“We hope to finish the season 7-4,” Coyle said. ••
WHERE: Abraham Lincoln High School
WHEN: Thursday, Nov. 24, at 10 a.m.
LAST YEAR: Father Judge won, 34-0
JUDGE LEADS SERIES: 32-3-1