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Lincoln passes test against inspired Trojans

In a gritty battle between Portland Interscholastic League rivals, Class 5A Wilson failed to withstand an aerial assault from the visiting 6A Lincoln Cardinals on Friday night, dropping the home game 30-14.

Now 2-1, Lincoln approached this matchup looking to use its dual-threat quarterback package to air it out against Wilson's defense. Senior starter Koleman Vance, 6-2, 220 pounds, made some clutch throws for Lincoln and connected on 7 of 17 passes for 179 yards. However, it was Vance's counterpart, Johnny Williams, a 6-3, 180-pound junior, who stole the show. Williams led the Cardinals' offense in all of their scoring drives, managing the game well and connecting on 12 of 20 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns.

'Johnny came in and did a nice job,' Lincoln coach Mike Fanger said. 'Koleman is our starter, and Johnny is playing great. It's nice to have two pretty good players back there who are executing the offense, and doing good things.'

It was frustrating for the Cardinals at the beginning, though.

Lincoln fumbled on its second play from scrimmage. The Trojans' defense bothered Vance from the get-go with good coverage downfield, and penalties wiped out any other progress made, including a tricky would-have-been-touchdown catch by senior Mike Ferguson.

'Coach (Ken) Duilio, his staff, and their players deserve a ton of credit,' Fanger said, of his Wilson counterpart. 'They came out, and they were ready to play. And we weren't.'

It was tough for the Trojans, too, as they fell to 0-3. The offensive strategy for Wilson included a heavy dose of rushing, mostly from senior standout Brian Wojahn, a 6-1, 205-pound fullback. After a quiet first quarter, Wojahn came up with some big numbers, pounding the ball between the tackles 19 times for 176 yards and two touchdowns.

'He's just a great all-around kid and a great football player,' Duilio said. ' He really performed well tonight.'

The scoring picked up in the second quarter for both teams. The Trojans struck first. After methodically moving on the ground, Wojahn found the end zone from a yard out on fourth-and-goal.

The Cardinals would respond with Williams at the helm. The offense got into the red zone and scored on a 15-yard field goal by senior Alex McPhee. McPhee also caught four balls for 98 yards in the game.

After the defense recovered a fumble on the following series, Lincoln quickly took the lead when Williams hooked up with senior running back Andrew Ellsworth from 10 yards.

Ellsworth, 5-11, 190, was the primary weapon offensively for the Cardinals. He carried nine times for 30 yards and two touchdowns, and added 115 receiving yards and another score on five catches.

With just under a minute left in the first half, the Trojans were down 10-7 and deep in their own territory. In one play, Wilson turned the tables again. Senior quarterback Robbie Wilson handed off to Wojahn, who found a gap on the outside and took it to the house. The 82-yard score to put the Trojans on top 14-10.

Lincoln's offense was clicking, and still had time for one last attempt to get on the scoreboard again before time expired. Things came easily in the passing game. Williams found Ellsworth for big gains downfield, hooking up for completions of 15 and 25 yards. As the half was about to end, senior wide receiver Spencer Rotenberg caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Williams to put the Cardinals back on top, 17-14. Rotenberg finished the game with 90 yards on three receptions.

After another stalemate in the third quarter, it was all Cardinals the rest of the way. Although the Trojans controlled the clock for much of the second half, they were unable to come away with points. In the fourth quarter, Lincoln added to its lead by keeping the ball in the hands of Ellsworth, who rushed for two more touchdowns.

Even though the Trojans were shut out in the second half and lost the nonleague game, Duilio said he placed a greater emphasis on the progress of the team.

'It wasn't so much about Lincoln, it's about us improving,' Duilio said. 'We played awful last week (48-20 loss to Century), so we really challenged the team to come out and play inspired football. That was our goal for tonight.'