'Learning experience' results in loss for Lincoln


In week one of the foot­ball sea­son — or in any sport, for that mat­ter — learn­ing ex­per­i­ences abound.

After al­most a full cal­en­dar year since the last game, area teams tend to open against non-league op­pon­ents in an ef­fort to iron out the kinks be­fore the “im­port­ant” games show up on the sched­ule.

Fri­day morn­ing was cer­tainly a learn­ing ex­per­i­ence for the Lin­coln Railsplit­ters, an ugly 13-7 de­feat at the hands of Harry S Tru­man. After 48 minutes of foot­ball, Lin­coln learned a lot, but that’s not to say it’s an ex­per­i­ence head coach Ed Mc­Get­tigan truly cared for.

“It is a learn­ing ex­per­i­ence, but it could also have been a learn­ing ex­per­i­ence had we won,” Mc­Get­tigan said out­side the Lin­coln lock­er room after his third sea­son began with a loss. “This is a start­ing point. Now, it’s up to us to take a step up. It def­in­itely helps see­ing a real game and be­ing able to see what you’ve got. It’s cer­tainly dif­fer­ent than when you prac­tice against your­self.”

The first half — and es­pe­cially the first quarter — was a big-time bright spot for the Railsplit­ters. Play­ing at home in front of a sparse but vo­cal crowd, Lin­coln came out and smacked Tru­man hard des­pite bat­tling road-like con­di­tions: the oth­er team brought cheer­lead­ers, a flag-wav­ing squad and a march­ing band so large that its equip­ment truck could have been mis­taken for Madonna’s road crew.

While the Lin­coln of­fense pretty much sputtered all day (it man­aged just two first downs the en­tire con­test), the de­fense came to play any­time Tru­man made the mis­take of drop­ping back and throw­ing the ball.

On Lin­coln’s first de­fens­ive stand, Tru­man star­ted deep in its own ter­rit­ory and had to pass on a third-and-long, a pass that was gobbled up by de­fens­ive back/run­ning back Dur­rell Dix­on and re­turned it 28 yards for a touch­down to put Lin­coln up 7-0. Then, on the sub­sequent pos­ses­sion, with Tru­man deep in Lin­coln’s zone thanks to a 64-yard run, Dix­on stepped up in the end zone and notched his second in­ter­cep­tion of the quarter.

“Dur­rell, he’s a seni­or, and he’s done a nice job for us on the field and in the classroom,” Mc­Get­tigan said. “He plays both ways and can be a real lead­er for us. We’ll need him to run the ball a little more as the sea­son goes on.”

The Railsplit­ters kept Tru­man off the board for the rest of the first half; prob­lem was, Lin­coln was kept out of the scor­ing column for the rest of the game. The second frame un­equi­voc­ally went to Tru­man.

Tru­man’s of­fense was on the field seem­ingly the en­tire time, as first down after first down kept the clock mov­ing and Lin­coln’s ex­hausted de­fense on the field. On an ex­tremely hot day, the Railsplit­ter de­fense stood firm, but third quarter touch­down runs of five and two yards gave Tru­man a 13-7 lead they would not re­lin­quish. In fact, Lin­coln ran just three of­fens­ive drives total­ing just one first down.

“They ran right through us in the second half,” Mc­Get­tigan said. “That’s what teams that run the op­tion do, they want to stay on the field and keep de­fenses tired and out of sync. Chunks of yards here and there and crit­ic­al first downs in the second half are why they won the game.”

The stat sheet for Lin­coln left much to be de­sired. Seni­or quar­ter­back Miguel Sanc­hez, the un­dis­puted lead­er of the of­fense and one of four re­turn­ing starters, com­pleted just four of nine passes for 42 yards. His pock­et pres­ence is there, but as Mc­Get­tigan noted, “He needs time to de­vel­op re­la­tion­ships with his re­ceiv­ers. He’s a big strong kid with a nice arm and he can run the ball, and I’d really love for him to be the cen­ter point of our of­fense.”

Else­where, Dix­on ran just three times for two yards, while Sanc­hez car­ried sev­en times for 12 yards. Dix­on, Khalil Walk­er, Joshua Pa­gan and Devon Tomp­kins each had a re­cep­tion for Lin­coln.

Mc­Get­tigan hopes Lin­coln got enough learn­ing done on Fri­day, be­cause this com­ing Fri­day night brings a fa­mil­i­ar op­pon­ent in North­east High School, an­oth­er Pub­lic League team that en­dured a rough learn­ing ex­per­i­ence this past week­end in a 24-0 loss to sub­urb­an power Ne­sham­iny. And al­though the teams play in dif­fer­ent di­vi­sions with­in the Pub­lic League, thus mak­ing it a non-league con­test, the Railsplit­ters will not be treat­ing it like one.

“It’s def­in­itely an im­port­ant test,” Mc­Get­tigan said. “They’re a good team, so we have to play mis­take-free, or at least cause more mis­takes than we make. I ex­pect them to be a very tough op­pon­ent, and we’ll have to bring our A-game to be com­pet­it­ive.”

Either way, Lin­coln knows it has a lot to work on as the sea­son pro­gresses. Learn­ing ex­per­i­ences aren’t al­ways pos­it­ive ones, but at least Mc­Get­tigan and com­pany got to see where they need the most im­prove­ment, which clearly comes on the of­fens­ive side of the ball.

“I have to look at the film and see what we can build on,” he said. “They played hard and didn’t give up, we just have to get them in the right spots to suc­ceed.

“We were ex­pect­ing some grow­ing pains,” he con­cluded. “We knew we had to play mis­take-free ball, and we didn’t. We made more mis­takes in the second half. Little stuff killed us, but as I said, it’s a start­ing point, and we all have to start some­where.” ••


You can reach at emorrone@bsmphilly.com.

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