Upstart Lincoln braces for North
The rumor that Lincoln High of Portland has not advanced to the state football playoffs since the president for which it's named was in office is untrue.
It only seems that way.
The Cardinals, who meet No. 3-ranked North Medford in a first-round playoff game tonight (7:30) at Spiegelberg Stadium, are making their first postseason appearance since 1966, 101 years after President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.
Still, it's been a prolonged playoff drought for the downtown Portland school.
It's been a wild ride here these past few months, says Bill Griffin, who took over the Lincoln head coaching job this fall and promptly led the Cardinals to the promised land. We started from scratch in a lot of areas. People said it couldn't be done.
Griffin, 53, came from Evergreen High in Vancouver, Wash., where he had been the defensive co-ordinator for the past 11 years.
However, Griffin made his biggest mark as head coach at Puyallup High in Puyallup, Wash., where he led that school to the Washington Class 4A state championship in 1987. The quarterback of that team was Billy Joe Hobart, who went on to star at the University of Washington and later played in the NFL.
Other members of that squad included tackle Dan Gallagher, who also played with the Huskies, and center Steve Wolfe, who went on to play at Washington State.
Griffin left Puyallap when his wife landed an executive job in Portland. He was happy at Evergreen High, but eventually got the itch to return to a head coaching position.
He landed the Lincoln job last spring.
His first order of business was to instill some pride and discipline into the program. Players were expected to lift weights and attend a summer camp that Griffin put on. They were expected to show up for practice each day and on time.
They were instructed to run to each drill — not walk — and helmets were to be worn at all times except for water breaks.
I wanted the kids to develop a winning attitude and a lot of that comes through discipline, Griffin says. Discipline and hard work breed success.
Lincoln posted a 6-3 record last season but had to forfeit four of the wins.
This year, the Cardinals are again 6-3 — their first official winning campaign in 24 years.
Although their offensive and defensive lines lack experience and may not be able to muscle up to North Medford's up-front troops, the Cardinals have several skill position plays that have Black Tornado coach Rod Rumrey worried.
Their best athlete might be quarterback Cam Spies, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound senior who has run and passed for more than 1,500 yards.
He's got tremendous footspeed and leaping ability, says Griffin, noting that Spies was a receiver last season. We think he's a college prospect.
The Cardinals also have a superb running back in James Steele, a 5-10, 170-pound senior who is second in the state in rushing with more than 1,100 yards despite missing three games with an injury.
Other top players include tight end T.J. Jones (6-3, 225, sr.), wide receiver Jay Darden (5-9, 165, jr.) and linebacker Bryant Patton (6-2, 220, sr.), the Cardinals? leading tackler.
We need to keep Spies in the pocket and we're going to need a lot of players tackling Steele because he's a great back, Rumrey says. What they like to do on offense is spread you out and mainly get the ball to Steele.
While Lincoln is a dangerous team offensively, the Cardinals may have trouble matching up with North Medford's offensive line. If that's the case, the Tornado will control the ball with its running attack and mix in the play-action passes of quarterback Kevin Foreman.
Foreman has thrown for 930 yards, 14 touchdowns and just four interceptions in leading North Medford to a 9-0 record, the Tornado's first unbeaten regular season since 1982.
North Medford starting tailback Phil Ouellette, who has missed the last two games with a hamstring pull, remains questionable for tonight's game. Junior Justin MacLauchlan, who ran for 89 yards on 12 carries during last Friday's 24-0 victory over Ashland, will again get the call if Ouellette can't go.
— EXTRA POINTS ?
Lincoln assistant coach Al Burrell will be the head coach of the Southern Oregon Heat, the Rogue Valley's arena football league team that will begin play next spring ... Don't be surprised if freshman Kevin Folsom packs the ball a few times tonight for the Tornado. Although fourth on the tailback depth chart a couple of weeks ago, the speedy Folsom — a standout this fall on the freshman and JV tams — could see action with both Ouellette and Manny Alegria (ankle) ailing.