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Dominant seniors help lead Lincoln to another state title

Cardinals take control in second half to turn away Sunset's upset bid
by: MILES VANCE, Lincoln players celebrate after Grant Clifford's first goal of the championship game helped the Cardinals rally for a 7-6 win over Sunset.

For the third year in a row, and the fourth time in five years, Lincoln High's boys lacrosse team reigns as state champion.

Lincoln rallied to beat Sunset 7-6 Saturday at Wilsonville High. It was the third year in a row that the two teams had met in the finals, and it was the second time the Cardinals had emerged victorious in a hard-fought game decided by one goal.

Trailing 5-3 at halftime on Saturday, Lincoln coach Will Harris told his seniors to step it up a notch.

"We called on our seniors and reminded them that it was their last game," Harris says. "I told them to play better team ball and knuckle down. It was about our seniors stepping up."

Those seniors responded.

In the third period, Lincoln went on a 4-0 run that included the go-ahead goal by senior middie Chris Nye.

"I didn't even realize until after the game that that ended up being the winning goal," the 6-4, 205-pound Nye says. "I had been getting good chances at the goal, and I finally put one away.

"It was a goal I will remember, and I was very happy to add to the score and help us win."

It took a tense fourth quarter, though, for the Cardinals to secure their triumph.

Sunset scored midway through the final period, cutting Lincoln's lead to 7-6. But the Cards held off the Apollos over the final six minutes and 48 seconds. The final minute was a thriller, with Sunset missing a scoring chance with 36 seconds to go and the Cardinals managing to knock away a last-ditch Apollos shot with 22 seconds left.

Lincoln senior attack man Grant Clifford went out in noteworthy fashion. The 6-2, 190-pounder scored two goals and became Lincoln's all-time career points leader with 292 points (219 goals and 73 assists). He finished this season with 82 goals and 29 assists.

Lincoln senior middie Jake Marcy added two goals in Saturday's championship game, and seniors Michael Marcott, Andrew Dalke and Nye all scored, as well.

"One of the biggest factors that allowed us to end on such a terrific note was the leadership from our seniors," Clifford says. "We all knew we wanted to go out with one more (title), and if we wanted to do that we had to step up."

Harris gives credit to Sunset, too, for the challenge the Apollos put forth. 

"They came out and played a great game," he says.

The Apollos lost to Lincoln 10-9 in two overtimes in 2010 and fell 18-10 to the Cardinals a year ago in the state final.

Harris says the chance to meet Sunset in a third consecutive title game was exciting, and a bit unexpected. The Apollos finished third in the Metro League.

"Last year, no one would have expected to see a Sunset-Lincoln rematch," he says. "I thought it was somebody else's chance this year."

Harris, who has been Lincoln's coach since 1999, says words still can't describe the feeling of winning another crown.

"No way to describe that," he says. "It's a program accomplishment. It's just a great feeling, and we came into the games pretty healthy."

Lincoln opened the season with an 11-10 loss at West Linn, then lost 12-5 to a team from New York and 7-6 to host Mercer Island in a tournament at the Washington powerhouse.

But from March 25 on, the Cardinals were perfect, ripping off 21 victories without a loss. Lincoln beat Lakeridge 10-8 in the state semifinals to earn another date with Sunset, which downed Lake Oswego 4-3 and finished the year with a 17-8 record.

"I think coming into the season with this amazing senior class, which was filled with stars, made us feel a little too confident," Clifford says, "but after those three straight losses (to start the season) we all came together."

Clifford, who will play for Dominican University of California in San Rafael, was named one of seven All-Americans from the Oregon High School Lacrosse Association. Teammates Michael Marcott, an attack man who is bound for the University of Denver, and middie Spencer Rotenberg (Oregon State) also were picked as OSHLA All-Americans.

Those three Cardinals, also with junior goalie Jack Edwards, made the all-state team.

Senior defenseman Owen Brady was voted second-team all-state.

Like his coach, Clifford was practically at a loss for words after the Cardinals' latest accomplishment.

"Being able to come out and play with all my friends," he says, "and in front of the best students in the state, and bring home one last championship is a feeling that is impossible to describe."