Homecoming Week is always a big deal at Lincoln.
Students of all ages across the school corporation participate in dress-up days in anticipation of Friday’s early dismissal and the parade that follows, while alumni from all over the country flock back to Vincennes for their reunions.
But for the Alices’ football team, homecoming has often served as the backdrop for a strong victory, typically against Washington, as they build momentum toward the second half of the season.
That tradition is expected to continue Friday as Lincoln welcomes an injury-depleted Hatchets team to Inman Field for a 7:30 p.m. start.
Washington (0-6, 0-3 Big Eight Conference) has been the homecoming opponent for the Alices (2-4, 0-3) every other season since 1995, and with both teams heading to different conferences next season, this is the final meeting.
It almost didn’t happen however. Rumors circulated late last week the Hatchets wouldn’t field a team for this week’s game due to injuries and other circumstances. But Lincoln coach Levi Salters was informed late Saturday that Washington had enough healthy, eligible players to play the final game in the rivalry.
The Hatchets, losers of 12 in a row, are averaging 7.3 points per game and haven’t scored a touchdown the last two weeks in lopsided losses to Mount Vernon and Indianapolis Crispus Attucks. They scored three times in a 47-21 loss at Evansville Bosse in week two, but that was before junior quarterback Trey Reed went down with bruised ribs. He didn’t play last week, and Salters didn’t expect him to play this week.
Junior Jack Fry, listed as a receiver-defensive end, took the snaps for Washington last week and is likely to be under center again, but Salters said nearly all the Hatchets’ playmakers, including Reed, were out with injuries.
“They have at least eight kids who are hurt and not dressing,” Salters said. “Obviously when that happens, you’re going to have kids playing positions they don’t typically play. Their numbers were lower this year anyway, and they don’t have a lot of seniors.”
Against a team that’s let up 40 or more points four times this season, it seems to be a good matchup for the Alices to continue to build their offense.
Lincoln didn’t rack up the points to prove it a week ago, but the offense looked better
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in a 12-6 win over 2A honorable mention North Knox, which ended a four-game skid. It was the best rushing performance by the team all season with senior Rae Haislip racking up 129 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. Junior Julius Hardiman got into the action too with 28 yards on eight carries.
The biggest difference aiding the rushing attack was the switch to a pro-I formation. Salters still opted to use the spread in passing downs, but the run game was vastly improved out of a different set.
“We’re kind of expanding what we want to do on offense, and we’ve made some changes (to the pro-I),” Salters said. “I’d prefer to go about 65 percent spread, 35 percent pro-I, but if the running game is looking good, we can let it take over more.”
Some changes are E Smith taking over the pro-I quarterback reigns in an effort to get the junior playmaker more touches, and sophomore Coleton Pfoff moving to tight end.
Junior Eric Vickers is still the spread quarterback. He wasn’t his best against the Warriors, firing 9-of-18 for 141 yards and a score and interception, but he got there by finishing strong, completing all five of his second-half attempts for 99 yards.
“He made a turnover early on a bad decision, but he played well after that,” Salters said. “He picked his spots wisely, and North Knox did a good job pressuring us. They got pressure on (Vickers) too much, so overall, I thought he played well.”
Junior linebacker Brayten Potter and sophomore lineman Jed Barnett re-aggravated injuries last week. Salters said Potter (ankle) is questionable but not likely to play, while the team is still awaiting word on Barnett (knee), though the coach didn’t seem optimistic.
Salters, who’s celebrating his 15-year class reunion, said that Homecoming Week had little effect on his team’s preparation, but he seemed hopeful his players would have a chance to take in the moment on Friday.
“It’s a fun game. No matter who we’re playing it feels like a big game,” he said. “It’s a whole event. The kids have a pep session at school, they get out early, go to the parade, and it ends with the game. They may not notice it now, but it’s probably one of the more memorable games they’re going to play, just given the big crowd and the atmosphere around it. It’s a really fun day for our players.”
The Alices are 44-22-2 all-time in homecoming games, and they’ve faced the Hatchets the most. Lincoln owns the homecoming series with Washington 19-4-1, claiming 15 straight over the Hatchets from 1955-2005 (Washington was the homecoming opponent just three times from 1956-1983). Lincoln is 7-1 over the last eight homecomings, following a five-year losing streak.
Overall the Alices have won six of their last seven games against the Hatchets.
Big Eight standings
Mount Vernon 3-0 4-2
Jasper 3-0 3-3
Princeton 1-1 1-5
Boonville 2-2 2-4
Lincoln 0-3 2-4
Washington 0-3 0-6
Last Friday’s results
Lincoln 12, North Knox 6
Indianapolis Attucks 40, Washington 0
Jasper 56, Princeton 7
Mount Vernon 39, Boonville 28
Washington at Lincoln
Boonville at Princeton
Mount Vernon at Scottsburg