FROM the AUBURN JOURNAL SPORTS
LINCOLN â The football teams in the Pioneer Valley League know that to earn a title it is almost always necessary to go through Placer High â the Fighting Zebras did just that Friday night.
The Hillmen came into the game assured of at least a tie for the championship and Lincoln had to win in order to get a piece of it. In a titanic battle worthy of 2016âs best PVL teams, the Zebras came away with a heart-pounding 48-34 victory.
The score did not reflect the actual drama of the contest. The Hillmen had fought back from a 41-24 deficit to pull within a touchdown with less than six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, 41-34.
After receiving the kickoff, Lincoln went on a sustained march to Placerâs 29-yard line. Facing a fourth down with a minute and a half remaining, the Zebrasâ Ryan Graham took a pitchout and swept around a picket line of blockers to score and put the game virtually out of reach.
âI donât care what the play is itâs going to my man, Ryan Graham,â said Lincoln head coach Chris Bean. âIâm going down with him or heâs taking us to the Promised Land and he took us to the Promised Land.â
The Hillmen rolled out to an early 14-0 lead in the game, but the Zebras fought back to take a 21-17 lead at halftime â and it did not stop there.
Less than a minute into the third quarter, Graham galloped 61 yards for a score. Two minutes later, Lincolnâs James Sweet was on the scoring end of a 51-yard pass from quarterback Isaac Adams. With the score 34-17, it appeared the Zebras had the game in hand, but not yet.
Placerâs Anthony Kerrigan capped a Hillmen drive with a 4-yard rushing TD. Although Lincoln answered with a 28-yard run to the end zone by Anthony Anderson, Placer did bend but the Hillmen did not break.
âThis teamâs got a lot of grit,â said Placer head coach Joey Montoya of his players. âWe had a tough preseason and that taught us how to face trials and our kids never panicked; they never quit. We put ourselves in position to have a chance to win and (Lincoln) made the play at the end of the game to win the game. The credit goes to Lincoln.â
In the final frame, Morgan Rein-Robinson scored his third touchdown of the game on a 12 yard carry. After a second drive stalled, Montoya went to kicker Blake Van Dyke for a 29-yard field goal cutting Lincolnâs lead to seven.
Even after Grahamâs dramatic final score of the night, the Hillmen regrouped to begin another drive. But an interception by the Zebrasâ Carlo Rodriguez ended Placerâs final efforts.
The two teams will now wait for the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section seeding to come out to know who and where they will play this week. Both clubs ended with 4-1 records in the PVL. Lincoln’s overall record was 6-4, Placer 5-5.
Placer had 475 total yards, 245 passing and 230 rushing. Lincoln had 524 total yards, 169 passing and 355 rushing.
Michael Stuck completed 15-of-25 passes, Adams 10-of-15 and two touchdowns.
Kerrigan rushed for 83 yards on 16 rushes and one TD; Graham ran 20 times for 221 yards and four TDs.