Unbeaten Lincoln Eyes Northern League Crown

By Mario Villegas, Exclusive to EGP

With a 5-0 record against nonleague opponents, Lincoln High School is off to another impressive start and ready to contend again this season for the Northern League football title.

In what will be its final home game of the season, Lincoln, the league’s only unbeaten team, plays Eagle Rock (2-3) at 7 p.m. Friday.

The Tigers rolled to a 71-0 victory over Torres last Friday in the first Kenny Washington Memorial Football Game. Lincoln’s players honored Washington, the school’s 1935 All-City running back who went on to be an All-American at UCLA and star for the Los Angeles Rams, by wearing throwback jerseys from 1935.

Washington was the first African-American to sign a contract with an NFL team in the modern era. His grandsons, Kirk and Kraig Washington, attended last Friday’s game along with longtime NFL referee Jim Tunney, who was an administrator at Lincoln in the 1950s and 60s. Skip Giancanelli, another former Lincoln standout who went on to play for the Philadelphia Eagles and would later coach the Tigers, also attended.

The Northern League figures to be a three-team race this season between Lincoln, Marshall (3-2) and Franklin (2-3). Marshall won the league in 2010, with Lincoln taking second and Franklin finishing third.

Lincoln is having its best back-to-back seasons since the 1991 and 1992 seasons under then-coach Randy Rodriguez.

Graduation took away most of the top players from last season’s 9-2 team and the Tigers’ success this season has been a surprise to many, including Coach Albert Carrillo.

“We’re not as talented as last season, but this team is loaded with character, fortitude and perseverance,” Carrillo said. “They don’t give up.”

Before dismantling Torres, the fledgling East Los Angeles school, Lincoln scored 1-point victories over Huntington Park (21-20) and Verdugo Hills (20-19), and defeated Belmont (28-12) and Manual Arts (34-27).

“They were calling us the “cardiac kids,” Carrillo said. “Our guys just don’t quit, they hang in there and don’t let teams take the game from them.”

Lincoln is led by two returning all-league players in quarterback Brando Lopez and fullback-lineback Roger Lemus. The Tigers also rely on wide receiver-defensive back Arthur Chavez and running back Danny Guerra.

“The offensive line is our main strength,” Carrillo said. “We’re massive up front and we can block.”

The line is bolstered by two-way players Louis Sovalbarro (6-4, 290) and Erwin Melesio (6-3, 285).

“It’s really a plus to have two players with that size that can play both offense and defense,” Carrillo said.

Wilson High School’s Jesse Gutierrez (4) looks to cut to the outside in last Thursday’s 45-7 loss to Fairfax. The Mules play Roybal in a Northern League opener Friday. (EGP photo by Mario Villegas)

Franklin opens league by taking on Marshall Friday night at home. The Panthers are coming off a tough, 16-12, loss to Verdugo Hills.

The Panthers have wins against Northview (16-13), Panorama City (20-19) and Poly (34-6). They lost to Roosevelt (19-14).

Wilson (1-4) stumbles into its league opener Friday at Roybal, hoping to end its 4-game losing streak. The Mules were overwhelmed by Fairfax, 45-7, last Thursday.

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October 13, 2011  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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