Lincoln doesn't have a lengthy football history with Floyd Central, but each one of their meetings has been an important one.
The teams met three teams in a seven-year stretch from 1997-2003, all coming in the Class 4A sectional. The last came during Lincoln coach Levi Salters' senior season, a 31-21 Alices victory in the sectional title game.
“We won the sectional at Floyd Central my senior year, and it was a good game. I think I had an interception and a fumble recovery. It was a pretty good night for us,” Salters recalled.
Lincoln (1-1) makes the two-plus hour trek to Floyds Knobs again Friday for a 7:30 p.m. date with the Highlanders (1-1).
While Friday's game won't carry nearly as much weight as the previous meetings with Floyd Central, which is now a 5A school, it's another good test for an Alices' team that has struggled to move the ball their first two games.
Lincoln managed only 97 yards on offense in a 28-10 season-opening win at Evansville Bosse. Last week, in a 19-6 home loss to Boonville, the total improved to 183, but the running game was almost non-existent with 28 yards on 20 attempts.
Salters is making a couple of changes this week. Junior Andrew Brown returns from suspension and replaces junior Parker Howder at right tackle, while sophomore Stefan Hernandez gets the start at running back, giving senior Rae Haislip the opportunity to rest and be fresh for defensive duties.
“It's a little frustrating at times, but you can't press. When you do that, it doesn't help anything. We just have to run the offense, take a few shots down the field which we're always going to do, and somebody has to make some plays,” Salters said. “Our margin for error isn't very big. In the past we've had kids who can erase mistakes. We don't have that now, so we have to be more consistent. When you just play, and play consistently, those big plays sometimes just happen.”
Senior receiver Torrence Gillis made the big plays last week, hauling in five passes for 119 yards, including a 65-yard scoring strike, and sophomore quarterback Coleton Poff was better in his second start, completing 10-of-18 for 125 yards.
“We know (Pfoff) can make all the throws. We've seen him do it,” Salters said. “We had two big drops last week, and four passes were knocked down at the line. Part of that is on (Pfoff), and part of it on the line. We've focused on cleaning up the short passing game this week.”
The coach added that having Hernandez in the backfield should help with blitz pick-ups, and that Brown's return should benefit both sides of the ball, also keeping Howder fresh for defense.
“We saw last year what (Brown) is capable of, and we saw more of it over the summer. When you can add a kid like that, it should really help us,” Salters said.
Lincoln's defense allowed 342 yards last week, but most of that had to do with spending the bulk of the second half on the field. Boonville had possession of the ball for over 30 minutes, including more than 16 minutes after halftime.
Led by Haislip and junior Julius Hardiman at defensive end, and the linebacking group of senior Logan McCrary and juniors Smith and Brayten Potter, the defense should be formidable again this week if the offense can get them some rest, especially with the addition of Brown.
The key is containing Floyd Central junior running back Wenkers Wright, who went off last week for 352 yards and four touchdowns on 23 carries in a 28-7 win over Providence. The quarterback is junior Tristan Polk, and seniors Landon Deweese and Calvin Brown are the only two-way starters, playing receiver and defensive back. Deweese is the top returning tackler.
“They look to be a good mixture of Boonville and Bosse. They have some good speed at some spots, but they don't have near the size up front we saw from Boonville,” Salters said. “This is the third week in a row we're seeing a good running back, and I'm not sure where he ranks, but he had some big runs last week.
“They're close to 50-50 (run-pass). They ran it more last week, but they passed it more week one. (Polk) is very capable, and he probably throws the ball better than the guys we've seen so far. Our secondary is definitely going to be tested by their passing game, so we have to get after them up front.”
It's the first time Lincoln is playing a 5A opponent in exactly six years. It was week three in 2013 (also Sept. 6) when the Alices played Terre Haute South for the final time. They'll see 5A teams regularly when they join the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference next season.
It's the second time this season that Lincoln plays on artificial turf, and it'll see one again next week at Mount Vernon. Salters said the turf is no longer a concern, as many schools have it now, and the Alices will join Castle next season as the only SIAC school with a natural surface.
Big Eight standings
Last Friday's results
Boonville 19, Lincoln 6
Evansville Bosse 47, Washington 21
Mount Vernon 56, North Posey 24
Southridge 21, Jasper 17
Terre Haute North 38, Princeton 0
Lincoln at Floyd Central
Jasper at Boonville
Mount Vernon at Mount Carmel
Princeton at Washington