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Lincoln pulls out 27-20 win over Southridge

by: MILES VANCE Lincoln's Marquis Fox runs to daylight in the Cardinals' 27-20 victory over Southridge at Jeld-Wen Field.

The first win of the season did not come easily for Lincoln High.

The Cardinals came up against a Southridge team that was just as scrappy as them Friday night at Jeld-Wen Field.

After the lead changed hands four times, the Cards pulled out a 27-20 victory with a fourth-quarter touchdown and a late interception inside the 10-yard line.

Using a two-quarterback system with Koleman Vance and Johnny Williams, Lincoln's offense was at times stellar and at times stagnant. Vance finished 13 of 22 passing for 252 yards. Williams was 7 of 8 passing for 127 yards.

The Cards defense held up well throughout most of the game, but the Portland Interscholastic League team got ground down on four drives for touchdowns.

'Southridge is a championship program,' Lincoln coach Mike Fanger said. 'They're coached so well, and they do such great things. We knew it was going to come down to the last drive. It was a battle.'

Southridge looked unstoppable on its opening possession. On the Skyhawks' first play, quarterback Reza Aleaziz dropped back and found Derek Westhora wide open down the middle of the field. Westhora caught the pass and streaked 64 yards to the 11-yard line.

One play later, the Metro League Skyhawks finished the drive, as Aleaziz again found Westhora completely open over the middle for the touchdown. After a failed PAT, Southridge led 6-0.

The Cards came firing back on their next possession. They marched 61 yards to the 3. That was where the drive stalled, though. Instead of utilizing one of their two mobile quarterbacks, Lincoln went into a power formation. The Cardinals ran the ball up the gut three straight times, and Southridge's big defensive line stuffed the running backs at the line of scrimmage on each play.

After a Lincoln holding penalty pushed the ball back to the 6, Alex McPhee drilled a 25-yard field goal to make the score 6-3. McPhee also nailed a 32-yarder in the second quarter.

Fanger said he had no regrets over not using one of his quarterbacks out of the pocket to create a more deceptive play before the first field goal.

'It's our Sherman tank formation, and the play is built to get a yard and we didn't,' Fanger said. 'Two out of the three plays, we had a guy going the wrong way, so we lost a blocker. Mental errors is what caused that. We'll go back to that and still run it when we need a yard.'

Lincoln went up 10-6 with 8:54 remaining in the second quarter. Taking his turn at quarterback, Williams found Kevin Sampson open down the middle for a 26-yard TD.

'I was taking what they give me,' Williams said. 'The safeties were splitting, so the middle was open and we exploited it.'

Despite their outstanding first drive, the Skyhawks offense floundered until late in the second quarter against the swarming Cardinals defense.

Finally, with 2:36 remaining, Aleaziz took a snap at the Lincoln 11 and threw a look-in pass to Brandon Brezic. The senior tight end was met by two Cardinal tacklers at the goal line. He spun off the defenders and dove into the end zone to send the teams into halftime tied 13-13.

With their first possession of the second half, Lincoln regained the lead. Mike Ferguson took an option pitch and found an open lane along the left sideline. Ferguson broke one tackle and was gone, 81 yards to the end zone. After the PAT, Lincoln led 20-13.

'I went north to south,' Ferguson said. 'It was right there. I saw green, and I saw my blockers.'

Moments later, Southridge evened the score at 20-20. After driving deep into Lincoln territory, Maleke Nathman took a handoff at the 3. He found nothing up the middle, but bounced to the outside and dove across the goal line.

With 5:05 remaining in the game, the Cards mounted a long drive to put themselves up 27-20.

Williams picked apart the Skyhawks secondary through the air, bringing Lincoln to the Southridge 15. Then, on first down, Lincoln dialed up a pass. Williams couldn't find an open receiver and tucked the ball to run. He was met at the line by a wall of Southridge D-lineman. Williams shuffled back into the pocket, though, and got off a pass to Sampson in the corner of the end zone. Sampson corralled the ball for his second TD of the game.

Southridge began one last-ditch effort that started on its 14 with just over a minute to play. The Skyhawks got down to the Lincoln 25 before defender Vance jumped a route and picked off the ball at the 6 to end the nonleague game.

'It doesn't feel better than that,' Vance said. 'It felt like victory.'