Lincoln gets ready to tackle D-II

Lincoln gets ready to tackle D-II

Lincoln junior quarterback Randall Hien, shown getting ready to pass the ball during last Friday night’s Injury Fund game against Cumberland at Tucker Field, is back for his third season behind center. He will help lead the Lions into battle on Friday at 7 p.m. when they host Shea at Ferguson Field. (Breeze photos by Eric Benevides)
Awaiting a new challenge: Football team kicks off season with tough tests against Shea, Woonsocket

LINCOLN – A lot of folks in the community were angry and disappointed at the news that the Lincoln High football team, which had reached the Division III semifinals in each of the last four seasons, but hadn’t played in a Super Bowl since 2003, was getting bumped to the Division II ranks, along with the two teams that had played in the last two D-III title games, two-time champion Burrillville and the Juanita Sanchez/Providence Country Day co-op team.

But there was one group that felt the opposite about the RIIL’s offseason realignment – the players themselves.

“The kids were excited,” said Lincoln head coach Sean Cavanaugh. “I was glad to hear that. They know (playing in Division II) is going to be a huge challenge, but they’re looking forward to it.”

Cavanaugh, who is beginning his fourth season at the Lions’ helm, spoke about his team and its new division last Friday morning, less than 12 hours away from Lincoln’s Injury Fund contest against Cumberland at Tucker Field, a two-quarter exhibition that saw the Division I Clippers post a 13-0 victory.

The start of the Lions’ season promises to be a challenging one, because after facing the Clippers, Lincoln opens its season on Friday at 7 p.m. in the friendly confines of Ferguson Field against Shea, which was promoted to Division I during the offseason. And on Saturday, Sept. 15, the Lions will open its Division II-A schedule at Woonsocket’s Barry Field by contesting the Villa Novans, who along with Rogers, dropped from D-I to the ‘A’ side of their division.

“We try to tell them – and it sounds like locker room cliche – that they’re going to have a challenge every week,” added Cavanaugh. “The adversity is going to happen – during the week in practice, in our games – and they’re going to have to rise up. But they have a different approach this year. There really seems to be a sense of urgency. They’re learning that you have to show up early, stay late, bring your lunch pail, and get ready to work if you’re going to be competitive.

“Like we always say, ‘You have to enjoy the grind,’” continued Cavanaugh, “and we see that on a daily basis, which is good.”

Another thing which is good is the Lions’ turnout this season, which saw a small spike in players with 57 and some balance in the classes with 11 seniors, 12 juniors, 18 sophomores, and 16 freshmen.

“We’re doing pretty well,” said Cavanaugh. “I know numbers are down throughout the state, so we’re very pleased with what we have.”

The Lions return a handful of players who earned All-Division honors last season, and one of them, senior Julien Karraz, who was a Second-Team All-State selection and served as a captain as a junior. He will continue with that role, “but we have so many guys that are working hard that we decided to go with game captains this year,” added Cavanaugh. “I think that will help guys rise to the challenge each week, and we will select them based on who has a good week and who’s showing leadership on and off the field.”

Back for his third season as the starting quarterback is junior Randall Hien, who tormented opposing defenses with his arm and his legs, and “is so cerebral,” added Cavanaugh. “He’s a student of the game. It’s his third year running the show, so he’s very comfortable with what we’re expecting.”

The Lions, who will again run the Wing-T offense, will have Karraz as the fullback and seniors Mike Marcaccio and Isiah Oliveira as the other two running backs. Senior John Williamson is a wide receiver who also doubles as a punter, and junior Kyle Moison is a tight end who “we’ll try to move around a little bit because he has a lot of skills that he brings to the table,” added Cavanaugh. “He has a lot of talent and he works hard.”

Up front, the Lions have senior Tom Almond at left tackle, sophomore Dylan Balon at left guard, junior Noah Waite as the center, sophomore Lyric Logan at right guard, and senior Colby Laferriere at right tackle. Three other linemen who are working their way into the mix are senior Alex Parris and juniors Aidan Murtha and Andrew King.

A lot of the starters on offense will also see double duty on defense. Sophomore linebacker Tyler Dusty and sophomore defensive back John Jaramillo will also be featured on ‘D’, Hien will play free safety, and Marcaccio and Oliveira are defensive backs/hybrid linebackers. Moison will also play on the line, which Cavanaugh said will see all the linemen rotate on it and Waite be featured as the nose guard.

“The crew that’s returning from last year is full of nice kids that set the foundation for what it takes between the discipline and the hard work,” added Cavanaugh. “As coaches, that’s been nice to see.”

Sophomore kicker Erick Solorzano is also back, and as for the newcomers, there have been quite a few that have impressed Cavanaugh in their bids to fight for spots, players such as sophomore running back/defensive back Kyle Wilson, sophomore lineman Joe Dufault, senior running back/defensive back Demitri Terrizzi, senior running back/linebacker Jack Damaso, and sophomore receiver/defensive backs Aidan Gould and Mark Nkwantabisa.

The Lions are hoping for a large gathering at their opener on Friday night, especially since they have been chosen as the first of seven RIIL high schools to host a “Salute to Service” game. Both Lincoln and Shea will wear special Salute to Service” themed jerseys, and the school is inviting veterans and members of the armed services to take part in a special pre-game ceremony. At halftime, Ocean State Pyrotechnics will conduct a fireworks show on the practice field adjacent to Ferguson Field.

After that, the Lions will begin their D-II schedule and take their first steps in their bid to return to the postseason in their new environment.

“I just want them to have some success,” said Cavanaugh. “If you win the games that you feel you can win, then you have a chance when it comes down to it at the end. And with eight teams (out of 14) making it to the playoffs, you’re not out of it if you lose one or two games early on, which is great, so we’ll see what happens.”

Senior Tommy Almond is back on Lincoln’s offensive line as the left tackle. He will be one of the veteran players who will lead the Lions into Friday’s season opener at home against Shea.
Lincoln senior wide receiver John Williamson, right, keeps an eye on the quarterback as he is lined up opposite Cumberland junior defensive back Dante Aviles-Santos during last Friday night’s Injury Fund game at Tucker Field, won by the Clippers, 13-0.