Amanda Habel 8:46 p.m., Sept. 2
Game of the Week: Lincoln at Eastlake
Hornets make big comeback to tie Titans
Lincoln and Eastlake ended their game Friday night tied 35-35. But they didn’t start out even by any means – after the first quarter the fourth-ranked Titans led by 20 points.
“We got down early and I’m so proud of the kids because they didn’t quit, they came back and they kept fighting until the fourth quarter,” said Lincoln head coach Ron Hamamoto. “I couldn’t be prouder of my kids.”
Eastlake could not have dreamed a better start to their home opener. Titans running back Chris Fletcher took the game’s opening kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown. Following a Lincoln punt, the Titans went up 14-0 when quarterback D’Angelo Barksdale found Fletcher for an 11-yard touchdown at 6:43 in the first quarter.
Forty-three seconds after that score, Lincoln quarterback Jake Marrion launched a 55-yard touchdown pass to 6’6” receiver Victor Dean, who made the catch over an outstretched Tony Jefferson. After Dean’s touchdown catch made it a 14-8 game, it looked like a track meet would ensue. It did – but the Titans were the only ones running.
Less than three minutes apart in the first quarter, Jefferson struck on touchdown runs of 51 and 48 yards. Jefferson went on to rush for 222 yards on 22 carries and Lincoln looked dazed, trailing 28-8 at the end of the first quarter.
“We could have easily folded at that time and we came back,” Hamamoto said.
Things settled down in the second quarter and Lincoln settled into the game. After a Hornets missed field goal, Lincoln capitalized on a Jefferson fumble with a touchdown and on the next drive, Lincoln defensive lineman Kevin Dulin returned a bad pitch 47 yards for a score to make it a seven-point game.
“I didn’t think they really could stop us, but we stopped ourselves,” said Eastlake head coach John McFadden. “It really could have been pretty ugly had we not done some really stupid things.”
On the ensuing drive, Eastlake went back up by 14 when Barksdale found running back Daniel Diaz for a 39-yard touchdown. But the very next play, Lincoln’s Davon Dunn took the kickoff 99 yards to the house. When the dust settled, Eastlake led 35-27 at the half.
“They have some incredible athletes and those incredible athletes, no matter how good you are as a team, can keep you in games,” McFadden said. “Their coaches do a good job of getting their athletes the ball.”
After a wild first half, both teams slowed down after the break with each only getting one possession in a scoreless third quarter. Eastlake had two chances to put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter, but Lincoln’s defense stood tall with their backs to their own end zone.
“In the second half, I think both teams got used to the speed of and offenses and I also think it’s early and high school kids are not in shape to go four quarters yet.
Early in the fourth, Diaz was stripped at the Lincoln two-yard line and the Hornets recovered. After a Lincoln punt, the Titans got the ball all the way down to the Hornets’ one-yard line but their defense forced a field goal that Eastlake kicker Marcelo Urrutia missed, hitting the left upright.
“Those things happen,” McFadden said. “We got some kids that need to start holding onto the ball; I think they’re going to be carrying the ball around school this week.”
With 4:01 left, Lincoln embarked on an 80-yard scoring drive and made it a two-point game when Dean caught his third touchdown of the game with 1:10 left. The Hornets threw an incomplete pass on the two-point conversion, but a pass interference call on Eastlake cornerback Fernando Cabico gave them another chance. They took full advantage, and Marrion hit Dunn to make it a tie game.
Marrion finished 16-of-26 for 241 yards. His favorite target was Dean, who caught eight passes for 158 yards.
Eastlake was able to advance the ball in the final minute, and with one second left, the Titans had the ball on the Lincoln 35-yard line. On the final play of the game, Barksdale launched a pass towards the endzone and Dunn picked it off and raced down the sidelines. Dunn got deep into Eastlake territory before he was brought down, ending the game.
After the game, the postgame emotions from each team were very different. On the Lincoln sideline, players were jumping and shouting and on the home sidelines, Eastlake players looked frustrated and defeated.
“That’s a good gauge for us and where we have to get better and what we need to look at when we break down film,” Hamamoto said.
The tie was Eastlake’s second in a row to start the season. Last week the Titans lost to Moorpark 28-27 in overtime but the game was not supposed to go to overtime so it is recorded as a tie.
“It’s frustrating,” McFadden said. “It’s frustrating but our team is a good team and we just have to get in a little bit better shape and just keep working.”
Lincoln (1-0-1) travels to play San Pasqual next Friday. Eastlake (0-0-2) will try to avoid a third-straight tie when they host Mission Hills.
Eastlake running back Tony Jefferson