By Eric Rueb
Journal Staff Writer
Posted Oct 3, 2019 at 7:01 PM
There aren’t any Division I college prospects on the Lincoln football team’s roster. There isn’t a behemoth that looks like a grown-up playing a kid’s game or someone with the type of speed that drops your jaw.
With the way the Lions have played two weeks into the Division II season, those things haven’t been necessary.
“We’re just working hard. We’ve got what we got,” Lincoln d-lineman Noah Waite says. “We just work hard and it doesn’t matter how big you are, you just have to execute.”
And execute they have.
The Lions have been one of the early-season surprises in D-II, posting two shutout wins, including a 26-0 win over defending champ Woonsocket in the league opener. They backed that up with another shutout in a 41-0 win over West Warwick last week. Friday Lincoln hosts Classical and while another shutout would be a dream against the high-octane Purple offense, it’s not the goal.
“We’re not thinking about the shutout,” Lincoln linebacker Andrew King says. “We’re thinking about continuing what we’re doing and taking it one game at a time.”
If it sounds boring, it is. Flash isn’t part of the Lions’ vocabulary. They’re not going to win games on style points and don’t really try to. Their practices are tough and they focus on execution, which means lots of repetition, even in the middle of a Noah’s Ark-type rainstorm.
That’s how you turn a 3-4 team from last year into the type of team the rest of D-II is going to notice.
“It just kind of happened,” Lincoln linebacker Aidan Murtha said. “We’ve been working really hard in practice every day and have a good game plan to execute. Everybody is doing their part and it’s really team defense.”
The shutout against Woonsocket was one of the biggest surprises of Week 1 in league play. The Villa Novans are big, strong and aren’t afraid to run teams over. While the defending D-II Super Bowl champs don’t have the skill players they had from last year, they still have size few can match.
None of that mattered to Lincoln. The 26-0 win told everyone just how far the Lions have come from last fall.
“We have a different attitude this year. We’re ready,” King says. “For every game, we’re as ready as we’re going to get.”
“It’s more confidence. Everybody is just executing the plays this year. Everybody is participating,” Murtha says. “Last year was just a couple of kids. This year, everyone is working hard.”
No one is happier about the defensive effort more than quarterback Randall Hien. The Lions have leaned on Hien in the past, needing his offense to win games. With the defense’s performance, it’s allowed Hien to be a complementary piece to the team.
“We’re always having great field position and we’re not having to come from behind,” Hien says. “That makes it so much easier for the offense when the defense is dictating what is happening and they’re doing a great job every day.”
The shutout streak won’t last forever, but that’s not something you need to tell any of the Lions. Seeing zeroes on the board isn’t the goal with this team.
“If we go out there and post a shutout it feels good, it’s like a pat on the back and feels good,” King says. “But if we get the win, that’s what matters.”
“We don’t really play for the stats,” Waite says. “We just want to get wins.”
So far, so good. Classical will be a challenge Friday, as will the passing attack of Johnston the week after, followed by D-II favorite East Greenwich. It’s a tough stretch and the Lions aren’t going to fall in the trap of letting recent success dictate the future.
“It’s nice but we’re not going to get comfortable,” Murtha says. “There’s a lot of good teams in D-II and anything can happen at this point.”