Alices can't afford mistakes against Bears

The Lincoln Alices are, front row from left, Jalen Swain, Julio Ramirez, Brayten Potter, E Smith, Sebastian Steele, Bryce Conover, Cooper Thorne, Payton Curry, Cole Besing, Ethan Francis, Blake Mincey, Eric Vickers, Parker Howder, Quinn Miller and Andrew Brown. Second row, Darius Hill, Estevan Rivera, Dylan Potter, Coleton Pfoff, Ty McNeece, Elijah Hovland, Jabin Baltzell, Levi Durham, Brody Hunter, Dylan Petty, Javi Sanchez, Samuel Hovland and Andrew Haggard. Third row, Blake Gray, Izek Pena, Dillon Bellamy, Dom Alston, Jackson Johnson, Kiefer Foster, Zach Steffey, Antwan Johnson, Jayden Easley, Kaiser Beaman, Tanner Sparks, Tucker Ray, Jonathan Soderling, Jackson Stone, Austin Wagoner and Eric Pena-Reyes. Fourth row, Samuel Charleston, Daniel Nash, Dustin Bilskie, Drew Hambrick, Brayden Carie, Tanner Gilbert, Tate Keller, Xander Hunt, Jax Newman, Kaiden Grinstead, Matthew Pearison, Max Thorne, Jace Kinnett, Raden Benson, Graham Reed, Joseph Ortiz, Connor Ravellette and Hayden Patton. Back row, assistant coaches Barry Stone, Andrew Malone, Jared Blue, Zach Lane, Tim Salters, coach Levi Salters, and assistant coaches David Bouchie and Aaron Pearison.

Lincoln's 1-2 start this season hasn't been entirely unexpected given the depth of their new league home, the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference, and the road doesn't get any more navigable today.

This week the Alices' trek south once again for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff against the preseason favorite to win the SIAC, Class 4A No. 7 Evansville Central.

The Bears (3-0), a state finalist in 2018, have been impressive to start the year, yielding a total of 10 points in wins over Mater Dei, Bosse and Memorial. But Lincoln coach Levi Salters believed his team is talented enough to hang with a 4A team that has state title aspirations. Given the Alices' narrow losses to Reitz (22-21) and Mater Dei (17-7) the past two weeks, his confidence is understandable.

“From everything I've seen, they have to be the (SIAC) favorite, but that everybody is pretty close, and I don't necessarily think one team is going to run away with it,” Salters said. “This team is definitely considered the top at the moment, but as far as our kids go, if we can make them play for four quarters, we'll have a shot. Points are going to be hard to come by, but as long as we don't give up big plays, we can make things tough on them.”

The Alices made it tough on Mater Dei last week, leading nearly the entire first half until the Wildcats punched in a late score to get it to 7-7 at halftime. Lincoln's offense stalled the rest of the way. Bad snaps, penalties and a pair of interceptions were the culprits.

“(Mater Dei's) defense made us work for everything, and they do a good job of keeping things in front and not giving up big plays. But our inability to finish off drives when we had chances was a real problem for us,” Salters said. “We have to do our best to eliminate as many negative plays as we can. A 1-yard gain is better than moving backwards. Obviously we need to eliminate the penalties and turnovers as well. We just need to keep moving forward and make sure if we get to third down, it's a manageable distance.”

Lincoln's defense has kept games close while the offense is catching up. Usual suspects, senior linemen Andrew Brown and Julius Hardiman, and senior linebacker E Smith have been disruptive as ever, but another multi-year starter at linebacker, senior Brayten Potter, has also done damage, including a key sack last week that halted the Wildcats' first drive of the second half.

“The defense was really good last week, and before (Mater Dei's) last drive, they only had maybe 40 yards rushing,” Salters said. “We gave up a few long pass plays, but other than that, it was a good performance all around.”

Based on what Central has done to this point in the season, the Alices may not have to worry about stopping deep pass plays this week. The Bears have run the ball on 86 percent of their plays this season. Sophomore quarterback Blake Herdes is just 4-of-13 with four interceptions, though his completions have been big-gainers as he's thrown for 157 yards.

Their offense centers around a slew of rushers in the backfield. Senior Tory Evans has carried 23 times for 173 yards and a score, and fullback classmate Javonte Madison, a Bosse transfer, has rushed 22 times for 152 yards and a touchdown. Jacob Boberg is at 12 rushes for 114 yards and two TDS. Two others have at least nine carries, and the team averages 7.2 yards per rush.

“Madison is an absolute animal, and he was first-team SIAC as a defensive tackle last year,” Salters said. “Evans is their big-time playmaker, and he's as explosive as we'll see all year. He's not big but is hard to bring down at times.”

Salters added that seniors Camdyn Counts, who returned a punt for a TD last week, and Julian Johnson were the receiving threats, and that Johnson and Boberg were important linebackers on defense.

“They're going to bring the pressure. Their defensive line is going to rush as hard as they can, because they know the linebackers are going to be there to clean it up,” Salters said. “(Boberg and Johnson) are as good of a linebacker combination as I've seen.

“We know if they throw it (Herdes) may give our defense some opportunities to make some plays. They have five or six guys who are important on both sides of the ball, and they don't get much rest. Hopefully we can wear those guys out, and we'll see what happens.”

The Alices have a much more recent history with the Bears, relative to the rest of the SIAC. The schools played each other in their season openers every season from 1997-2003, and Lincoln went 5-2 in that stretch. Salters was a senior the last time the teams played, a 36-7 victory on Aug. 22, 2003.

Ironically, Central's program took off after Lincoln went off the schedule. The Bears have only finished under .500 twice since then, winning four games both of those seasons. During those final four seasons of playing the Alices, Central won a combined five games.

SIAC STANDINGS

|CONF|OFF|DEF

Evansville Central|3-0|104|10

Evansville North|3-0|92|19

Jasper|3-0|99|24

Evansville Reitz|2-1|88|82

Castle|1-1|13|17

Evansville Mater Dei|1-2|20|34

Lincoln|1-2|69|52

Evansville Bosse|0-2|13|103

Evansville Harrison|0-3|33|143

Evansville Memorial|0-3|25|72

Last Friday's results

Mater Dei 17, Lincoln 7

Central 21, Memorial 10

North 41, Harrison 0

Jasper 35, Reitz 14

Today's games

Lincoln at Central

Castle at Harrison

Bosse at Jasper

Memorial at Mater Dei

Reitz at North

LINCOLN (1-2)

|L |OPP

First downs |39 |32

Rushes-yards |80-432 |75-258

Passing (C-A-I) |42-82-6 |20-42-3

Passing yards |528 |382

Total yards |960 |640

Fumbles-lost |5-2 |7-5

Penalties-yards |37-266 |22-165

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Lincoln |34-27-8-0 — 69

Opponents |0-21-3-28 — 52

RUSHING |Att. |Yds. |Avg. |TD

E Smith |44 |263 |6.0 |2

Quinn Miller |6 |88 |14.7 |1

Jackson Johnson |11 |43 |3.9 |1

Eric Vickers |10 |28 |2.8 |0

DeJuan Gillis |2 |7 |3.5 |0

Julius Hardiman |4 |6 |1.5 |1

Coleton Pfoff |2 |-2 |-1.0 |0

PASSING |C-A-I |Yds. |TD

Eric Vickers |39-76-5 |482 |4

Elijah Hovland |1-1-0 |27 |0

Coleton Pfoff |2-3-0 |19 |0

Zach Steffey |0-1-0 |0 |0

Quinn Miller |0-1-1 |0 |0

RECEIVING |Rec. |Yds. |YPC |TD

Quinn Miller |16 |179 |11.2 |1

Blake Mincey |8 |121 |15.1 |1

Payton Curry |6 |82 |13.7 |1

Coleton Pfoff |5 |60 |12.0 |1

E Smith |3 |58 |19.3 |0

Elijah Hovland |2 |18 |9.0 |0

Ty McNeece |1 |6 |6.0 |0

Jackson Johnson |1 |4 |4.0 |0

SCORING |TD |XP |2XP |FG |Pts.

Quinn Miller |3 |0 |0 |0 |18

E Smith |2 |0 |1 |0 |14

Blake Mincey |1 |0 |1 |0 |8

Payton Curry |1 |0 |0 |0 |6

Jackson Johnson |1 |0 |0 |0 |6

Coleton Pfoff |1 |0 |0 |0 |6

Julius Hardiman |1 |0 |0 |0 |6

Jonathan Soderling |0 |5 |0 |0 |5

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