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Ground game helps Lincoln move on with 28-16 win over Hillsboro

There was rain. There was wind. And it was just downright cold at Lincoln High Friday night, as the home team defeated Hillsboro 28-16 a Class 6A play-in football game.

With a record of 6-4, the Cardinals will help represent the Portland Interscholastic League in the Oregon School Activities Association playoffs for the 12th straight time. Next week, the Cardinals will get the Gresham Gophers at home. Gresham (7-2) was second in the Mt. Hood Conference.

Hillsboro entered Friday night's matchup 0-9. But the Spartans have had playoff success in recent years, and Lincoln coach Mike Fanger said the Cardinals had tremendous respect for their opponents.

'They played hard,' Fanger said. 'They did a great job, and I give their kids a lot of credit for coming out and playing hard.'

The Cardinals' offense found the end zone four times, and penalties wiped two touchdowns off the scoreboard, including a 75-yard bomb to offensive utility man Koleman Vance. The 6-3, 220-pound senior had 183 yards from scrimmage.

The first half belonged to senior Andrew Ellsworth and the Cardinals' ground game.

'He did a great job,' Fanger said of the 190-pound running back. 'The offensive line creased him a couple times, and we got out in the open field. They did a pretty good job up front.'

Through the driving rain, the Spartans were forced to take their medicine - a steady dose of Ellsworth. The 5-11 speedster consistently found holes in the defense, ripping off monster gains of 65 and 54 yards, and he ended the first half with 12 carries for 143 yards and a touchdown.

On the game's opening drive, the first of Ellsworth's big runs set up Vance for a 32-yard score, putting the Cardinals in front 7-0.

After thwarting the Spartans' first offensive attempt, Lincoln quarterback Johnny Williams was picked off, abruptly ending a promising drive well into Hillsboro territory. The Spartans were unable to score a touchdown after the interception, but settled for a 33-yard field goal.

The two squads traded three-and-out's, and then it was Ellsworth's turn again. The Cardinals stormed down the field, using big gains from Williams and Ellsworth, and they capped off the drive with a 1-yard leaping touchdown by Ellsworth.

Lincoln went into halftime up 14-3.

As the second half began, the temperature dropped into the 30s. Both offenses appeared to struggle at first, each team losing a fumble.

'We were a little out of sync tonight and had some key turnovers when we were trying to put the game away,' Fanger said. 'That was pretty concerning.'

Finally, the Cardinals' offense began to develop a rhythm in the passing game. After completing 1 of 8 in the first half, Williams found Vance for a 24-yard gain, and then connected with Ellsworth for 16. Lincoln made its way to the 5-yard line, where Williams hooked up with 6-2 senior receiver Spencer Rotenberg in the back of the end zone.

After another Spartans fumble, Vance took an end-around up the right side of the field for 70 yards before being dragged down from behind at the 5. This only delayed the inevitable. A few plays later, Williams found his tight end, Adam Eakin, for a 2-yard touchdown completion.

Down 28-3, the Spartans needed a big play on offense, and they got one almost immediately. On Hillsboro's next possession, 5-4 Chance Tsukamoto sprinted downfield and caught a pass from quarterback Chris Hungerford. It took the senior duo about eight seconds to go 77 yards and score their team's first touchdown of the game.

Hillsboro would get the ball back, and Tsukamoto would score again - this time from 14 yards. With the exception of the two late scores in the fourth quarter, Tsukamoto was held in check, though, and he finished with 41 yards on 18 carries.

Hungerford completed 5 of 16 passes for 121 yards, and ran 19 times for 78 yards.