Lincoln brings athletic team to gridiron

Lincoln brings athletic team to gridiron

Football team welcomes four returning starters, multi-sport players to D-II season

LINCOLN – When it comes to varsity experience, there aren’t a lot of teams in the state that can match the amount that the players on this season’s Lincoln High football team have accumulated over the past few years.

Unfortunately for the Lions, almost all of that varsity experience is in other sports, most notably baseball, wrestling, volleyball, basketball, and lacrosse.

As for the Lions’ experience on the gridiron? Only four starters are back from last year’s team, and while there are quite a few newcomers to the program who have been household names in other sports, that’s perfectly fine with head coach Sean Cavanaugh.

“Our roster is heavy with multi-sport athletes,” he said. “That’s something (high school football coaches) are trying to promote nationwide. Here at Lincoln, it’s fantastic to get these kids out. They’re as green as you can be, from a football sense, but they’re competitive kids with athletic skills, so we’re excited about that.”

“And (the preseason) has been great,” Cavanaugh continued. “There’s automatically a little bit of chemistry because the kids know each other from the other sports, and there’s been a real competitive nature to practice. It’s been really nice.”

Cavanaugh talked about his squad last Friday afternoon, on the eve of Lincoln’s four-team scrimmage at Ponaganset High against the host Chieftains, North Providence, and Ellis Tech of Danielson, Conn., and rattled off the players in each position on his roster as if he was reading a “who’s who” of the school’s top athletes.

The most prominent name of the group is senior Randall Hien, pictured, a standout in baseball and basketball who is back for his fourth season as the Lions’ quarterback, and the other three returning starters are senior center Noah Waite, who Cavanaugh credited as “leading the weight room charge in the offseason” and juniors guards Dylan Balon and Lyric Logan.

The Lions’ backfield also has a bit of experience in junior wing backs John Jaramillo, Kyle Wilson, Tyler Dusty, and Marcell Rocha, and the senior fullbacks are Andrew King and Allen Setaro.

Up front, there has been some competition for the tackle spots among juniors Joseph Dufault and Will Postle and sophomore Will Bowler, and the most versatile lineman of the bunch is senior Aidan Murtha, who can play any spot on the line.

The Lions’ receivers are senior Jarod Gonsalves and juniors Aidan Gould, Mark Nkwantabisa, Vaun Larisa, and Spiros Revis, and vying for playing time at tight end are juniors Erick Solorzano, who is also back as the Lions’ kicker, Nick Toro, and Octavio Brito.

Most of the players on offense are also featured on the other side of the ball. The defensive line is made up of Balon, Waite, and Logan, the linebacking corps has Murtha and Setaro on the outside and King and Toro in the middle, and the secondary contains Gould, Jaramillo, Wilson, and sophomore Isaac Alves, who is also the backup quarterback.

“We’re obviously not a football factory,” Cavanaugh said, “but to have athletes coming out, it gives you something to work with. They don’t have the football experience, but they’ve been showing up early and staying late and they’re really working.”

After making four straight trips to the Division III semifinals, the Lions realized that they would have to put in plenty of work last season when they got promoted to D-II. They dropped three of their first four games in their new league, but finished the season strong with wins in four of their last five games to end up with an overall record of 5-5.

“Division II was a challenge for us,” admitted Cavanaugh, whose team went into the final week of its league schedule with a chance to grab a playoff spot, but suffered a 28-21 loss at home to Rogers. “It was a little bit of a reality check, and the boys realized they needed to put some work in the weight room in the offseason and come (into the next season) dedicated and committed if they wanted to compete in Division II.

“And we’ve seen that, which is great. Coach (Steven) Rodrigues, who is the school’s resource officer, volunteered his time in the offseason to give us some of his strength and conditioning training expertise. That was new for us, to have a really big showing in the offseason, and we had 20-22 (kids each day) in the weight room.”

The Lions will surely hope their offseason work paid off, because the schedule makers weren’t kind to them again. Like they did last season, the Lions will play Division I neighbor Cumberland in their Injury Fund game on Friday at Max Read Field, and they will return to Max Read Field on Friday, Sept. 13, to face another D-I team, Shea.

As for the Lions’ first league game? They will host the defending D-II Super Bowl champion, Woonsocket, on Friday, Sept. 20.

“We start out with such a tough schedule,” said Cavanaugh. “but right now, we’re really trying to get all the kids involved. We have all these athletes, and we have to find out what they do well and find a place for them. And if everyone embraces their roles and the team concept comes together, I think we’ll have a chance to be competitive – as tough as Division II is. Every night really is a battle.”

Lincoln senior outside linebacker Aidan Murtha, left, hauls down a Ponaganset running back during last Saturday’s scrimmage. The Lions, who will face Cumberland in a two-quarter Injury Fund game on Friday, will take on former Homecoming Day rival Shea in their non-league opener on Friday, Sept. 13, at Max Read Field.
Lincoln sophomore tackle Will Bowler has his hands full with a Ponaganset defensive end during last Saturday’s scrimmage. The Lions, who will clash with Cumberland in an Injury Fund game on Friday, will face former Homecoming Day rival Shea in their non-league opener on Friday, Sept. 13, at Max Read Field.