Ypsilanti – There will be a David vs. Goliath matchup when Ypsilanti Lincoln travels to Detroit King on Friday to battle the two-time defending Division 2 state champions in a regional final.
Lincoln (9-2) earned its first district championship in school history last Friday, making a goal-line stand to stop Wyandotte on a two-point conversion try in the final minute of the 21-19 victory.
It was Lincoln’s first win in four postseason games at Wyandotte. In fact, those four games at Wyandotte were Lincoln’s lone state playoff games on the road in school history.
Lincoln hosted its first ever playoff game this season, defeating Woodhaven 14-7 Oct. 27. That was the first postseason victory in program history.
Contrast that with King – 10-1 and ranked No. 4 in The Detroit News Super 20 – which played five postseason games in each of the previous two seasons.
No doubt, Lincoln’s program has made tremendous strides in Chris Westfall’s 11 years as head coach. He took over a team that had lost 21 straight games when he accepted the job in 2007, then had an 0-9 season in his first year before guiding Lincoln to a season-opening 38-22 win over Tecumseh in the 2008 opener to end the skid at 30 games.
Westfall lost several players to transfers in past seasons, but his ability to keep players this year has given those players who have stayed reason to celebrate.
“Like I told the guys, the community coming together and all the support we’ve had has been pretty special,” Westfall said. “There’s been an issue here for years of kids going to other places, so for these kids who all got to stay and have worked their tails off to have success is really the difference and what makes this so rewarding.”
Westfall said Lincoln will have a large crowd, already planning to send six busses of fans to the regional championship game.
Lincoln is loaded with talent at the skill positions, including senior quarterback Cameron Thompson; 6-foot, 205-pound senior running back Derek Thomason, who has 4.5 speed; and senior track star and receiver/defensive back Matt Moorer – the Division 1 state 400 meters champion – who is being recruited by such track powers as Oregon, Tennessee and Oklahoma State.
Thompson has rushed for 1,500 yards and thrown for nearly 1,000. Lincoln has rushed for 3,000 yards as a team behind an offensive line anchored by 6-6, 305-pound sophomore Tate Mackenzie, with Thomason piling up 960 yards, including 127 on 13 carries and three TDs against Wyandotte.
Moore returned the opening kickoff 51 yards in the district final to set up Thomason’s 7-yard TD. Thomason scored on a 70-yard run to open a 14-0 first-quarter lead, then scored on another 7-yard run to push the lead to 21-7 early in the fourth.
Still, Wyandotte cut the deficit to 21-19 in the final minute. After a penalty to Lincoln had the ball at the 1 for the two-point conversion, Lincoln’s 5-10, 275-pound senior nose guard Avery Kenyon pushed the center back into the ball carrier for the game-saving tackle.
Kenyon’s impressive play sparked Lincoln to a school-record nine-game winning streak.
“Avery’s a great player, just bench pressed the center right back into the running back to stop the two-point attempt,” said Westfall of Kenyon. “We’re a 3-4 team and he’s the reason we get to be a 3-4 (defense). He anchors everything in the middle, just a fantastic player.”
“I was really determined, didn’t want to go to overtime,” said Kenyon. “I had a lot of adrenaline, I was ready for it, just came off the ball quick and pushed the center into the running back to stop him.
“It was a great feeling to win that district championship. We put in a lot of hard work to get to that point. We started the season 0-2 but had a lot of determined players on the team. We’re not ready to have our season end. We have a lot of speed and our defense is like monsters.”
Moorer said Lincoln is eager to prove his team’s success has not been a “fluke.”
“A lot of teams don’t have the type of speed that we have on this team; our defense is just a fast team, we all head to the ball to prevent the big plays,” said Moorer, who took an official visit to Oklahoma State Saturday. “We’re really looking forward to proving to everyone that this is not a fluke, really giving them a game, and it’s really a privilege to play our third postseason game.”
Thomason said the win over Wyandotte has been the highlight of his season – so far.
“It’s probably been the most exciting game I’ve ever played,” said Thomason, who has drawn interest from MAC and Division II schools. “It was a great atmosphere.
“This (regional final) is a great opportunity, playing the two-time state champs. We’re really looking forward to it. We have a great bond on this team. It just shows how connected we are, and the people that stayed are really invested in the program.”