Young Vikings topple Lincoln in playoff win

If there was an ex­or­bit­ant amount of re­quests for pain re­lief medi­cine at loc­al phar­ma­cies this past week­end, it might have had something to do with Fri­day night’s high school play­off foot­ball game between Lin­coln and North­east at Charles Mar­tin Me­mori­al Sta­di­um.

Sprained ankles. Wrenched knees. Hip con­tu­sions. 

Even a broken tooth.

By the time the last of the wounded were at­ten­ded to by re­spect­ive team train­ers, North­east had emerged tri­umphant, 39-22. The vic­tory over the Railsplit­ters (4-5) in the first round of the Pub­lic League AAAA play­offs cata­pul­ted the third-seed Vik­ings (4-5) to a semi­final battle with second-seeded George Wash­ing­ton (3:30 p.m., Sat­urday, North­east High School).

“I’m sore,” said North­east ju­ni­or Asa Man­ley. “I think we’re all pretty sore. That was a battle from the be­gin­ning to the end.”

Man­ley was the king­pin of­fens­ively. His 19 car­ries pro­duced 116 yards and three touch­downs, not to men­tion sev­er­al body im­pres­sions on bruised Lin­coln tack­lers.

“I try to run hard,” Man­ley said. “Every play, that’s what I need to do. I know they’re go­ing to do everything to get me down, so I just stay low and keep driv­ing my legs ”

Man­ley was quick to rave about his of­fens­ive line that helped carve out 205 rush­ing yards and six touch­down runs. On de­fense, Man­ley played corner­back and snared one of North­east’s two in­ter­cep­tions (seni­or Mar­kee Moses had the oth­er) thrown by Lin­coln quar­ter­back Devon Thomp­kins. 

The Vik­ings’ de­fense houn­ded Lin­coln’s tal­en­ted, 6-foot-4 seni­or all night long, but Thomp­kins was still able to com­plete sev­en of 16 passes for a ca­reer-high 157 yards and two touch­downs. 

However, Thomp­kins was un­able to es­cape the clutches of sack-happy ju­ni­or Gladi­mir Paul (two) and seni­ors Faith Gid­dings and Bri­an Green (one each). All told, North­east’s de­fense caused an as­ton­ish­ing 13 plays that net­ted neg­at­ive yard­age.

“Their de­fens­ive line is very good,” said Thomp­kins, vis­ibly ex­hausted while stand­ing out­side a quiet Lin­coln lock­er room. “They made us work for everything we got.”

The Vik­ings turned a 21-6 lead at half­time in­to a com­fort­able 33-6 cush­ion with 4:13 re­main­ing in the third quarter. The Railsplit­ters countered with two quick scor­ing strikes of 68 and 17 yards from the same com­bin­a­tion of Thomp­kins to ju­ni­or Travon Wil­li­ams, and a pair of two-point con­ver­sion runs by Thomp­kins to trim their de­fi­cit to 33-22 with 11:02 left in reg­u­la­tion.

Un­daun­ted, North­east en­gin­eered a 12-play, 66-yard drive that eroded 6 minutes and 16 seconds off the clock — punc­tu­ated by Man­ley’s fourth-down, 1-yard plunge in­to the end zone. With only 4:46 to work with and in total des­per­a­tion mode, Lin­coln suc­cumbed to the in­ev­it­able.

“We fought hard, but we couldn’t do a lot of little things that ended up adding up,” said Lin­coln coach Ed Mc­Get­tigan, classy in de­feat. “They’re a hard-hit­ting team; prob­ably the most phys­ic­al team we’ve played all year.”

Man­ley said the Vik­ings had “the look that you want to see” be­fore and dur­ing the game. 

“We knew we had to stay fo­cused,” Man­ley said. “That’s the main thing. We had to use our fo­cus to play with a lot of en­ergy and stay ag­gress­ive. That was the big thing. Our line­men were very ag­gress­ive. Without that, there’s no way I could have run for yards. It all star­ted with them.”

Man­ley in­sisted that North­east was not con­cerned by its omin­ous start.

On the first play from scrim­mage, an empty pitch to the back­field res­ul­ted in a 16-yard loss and a turnover that was re­covered by Lin­coln line­back­er Taylor Gaines at the North­east 24-yard line.

On the very next play, Lin­coln ju­ni­or Dam­arkus Jones bus­ted through the line for a 24-yard touch­down jaunt, and the Railsplit­ters led, 6-0, only 28 seconds in­to the con­test.

That would be Lin­coln’s only lead, as North­east would then score touch­downs on each of its next five pos­ses­sions.

“We were OK,” Man­ley said. “No one put his head down. We stayed ag­gress­ive. We played as a team. No use to get too up­set about one bad play. There was a lot of foot­ball left.” ••

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