The Abraham Lincoln Railsplitters and Father Judge Crusaders both have losing records, but one of them will have a happy Thanksgiving.
The football rivals will meet for the 38th time on Thursday at 10 a.m. at Lincoln.
Judge took advantage of seven Lincoln turnovers last November to post a 48-7 victory. The Crusaders have won 22 in a row in the series and have a runaway all-time record of 33-3-1.
Lincoln’s last victory came in 1989, when the Railsplitters were 7-0 winners in a game played in the snow.
Judge (2-6) started the season with a loss in Ireland. The Crusaders lost all four games in the Catholic League Class AAAA Division and failed to qualify for the playoffs.
“We lost six games. We’re disappointed to be 2-6,” said coach Tom Coyle. “But 3-6 would be a lot better than 2-7.”
Lincoln (4-7) qualified for the Public League Class AAAA playoffs, but suffered a lopsided loss to Central. The Railsplitters have lost two more games since then.
“This is a big game for us,” said senior outside linebacker/running back Andrew Gallagher. “If we win, it will be like we won the championship.”
Judge appears to be a lot better than its record would indicate. The Crusaders had an easy victory over Council Rock South and a quality win over Bonner-Prendergast. They led formidable State College (Pa.) before losing, dropped a one-point overtime game against Archbishop Ryan and had a chance against Roman Catholic until a couple of special teams breakdowns.
“We want to end the season with a win, obviously,” said senior quarterback and co-captain Ryan Mackiewicz. “It’s a rivalry. There will be a big crowd. We want to go out on a good note, especially the seniors.”
Lincoln coach Ed McGettigan, a 1988 Judge graduate, was hoping his team could capture the Public League Silver Division, but the Railsplitters lost to Furness. Still, they managed to reach the postseason even though opponents forfeited games to Lincoln in two straight weeks.
Judge had three first team All-Catholic selections in senior offensive tackle Vince LoStracco, junior kicker Connor Foley and sophomore running back Samir Bullock.
Foley, a three-year first-teamer, has kicked five field goals.
LoStracco, a 280-plus-pounder who is receiving college interest from Valparaiso in Indiana, broke his hand in practice two weeks ago.
The Crusaders have been hurt by injuries. Mackiewicz, who has thrown for 812 yards and six touchdowns and rushed for four TDs, separated his shoulder in the team’s previous game on Oct. 26. He’s hoping to play on Thursday.
“He’s had himself a good football season,” Coyle said.
Bullock stepped in for Marquis Seamon, who broke his wrist in the game in Ireland. He’s rushed for 916 yards and five touchdowns.
“That’s pretty impressive for an eight-game season,” Coyle said.
Other Crusaders having good seasons include senior safety/running back Dennis Boice, senior outside linebacker/tight end Brandon Spatz and junior center/defensive tackle Tom Bayer.
Coyle has seen Lincoln play Overbrook and Dobbins in person and has viewed a few tapes of the Railsplitters. He describes them as a physical team with a talented offensive backfield. He expects them to try to stop the running game.
“We’ll see eight in the box and will have to throw it at times,” he said.
Lincoln has played just one more game than Judge, having accepted the forfeits from Olney and Thomas Edison.
The team’s top runner is senior Khalil “Duke” Walker, a speedster and member of the track team. He’s caught four touchdown passes and also plays cornerback.
“He’s our main offensive threat,” McGettigan said.
DeWitt Johnson also gets some carries, while senior Miguel Sanchez is a three-year starter at quarterback.
“We distribute the ball pretty evenly,” McGettigan said. “We’re pretty evenly divided between the run and the pass.”
McGettigan likes his team’s speed. He dismisses Judge’s poor record, pointing to the Crusaders’ tough schedule, and is hoping his squad plays a mistake-free game.
He expects Judge to try to establish a running game, as usual.
“They’re going to pound us. We have to gang-tackle and wrap our arms around them. That’s what we’ve been saying since August 13th,” he said, noting the start of summer training camp.
Gallagher believes the Railsplitters can play with the Crusaders.
“We’ve had our ups and down, but our team is good. We have a lot of speed on offense and defense. Our defense has gotten much better as the season has gone on. We have to bring it together in the second half,” he said. ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org