LINCOLN --- Lincoln need this win. Badly.
Ryan O’Dell’s eight-yard touchdown pass to Brendan Reddington with 2:55 remaining in the game erased a two-point deficit and helped the Lions score their biggest win to date, a 20-14 victory over previously-unbeaten Moses Brown on Friday night at Ferguson Field.
The Lions improved to 3-2 in Division III action with the triumph, and more importantly, stayed in the five-team hunt for the four postseason berths with Rogers (4-0), Middletown and the Quakers (both 3-1), and Burrillville (2-2).
And the ingredients to this victory were a huge game offensively from O’Dell, who hit on 15 of his 26 passes for 202 yards and ran for 71 yards and a touchdown, and an effective bend-but-don’t-break defense that gave up 286 yards of offense, but allowed the Quakers to cross the Lions’ 40 just three times all night.
While those were the keys to victory, so was an excellent second-half performance by the Lions that had been missing in their season-opening non-league loss to Shea and division defeats to Burrillville and Rogers. Lincoln led at the half in all three of those contests, yet came away with defeats.
“This is a great win for us,” offered Lincoln head coach Dave Waycott. “All week, we’ve been talking about finishing games, and tonight, they did it. It’s what we’ve been looking for. We’ve seen improvement every week and the biggest thing I saw tonight was that we were playing as a team. That’s the thing I was extremely happy about.”
While the Lions have played some lackluster second halves, they have also endured their share of problems with penalties, but in this contest, they only got six yellow flags for 50 yards.
The Quakers, meanwhile, got whistled a season-high 13 times for 95 yards, and their last three penalties came on a drive midway through the last quarter that pinned them back on their own one-yard line and eventually forced them to punt to the Lions near the M.B. 30 with 4:44 on the clock.
That’s when the Lions, who were trailing by a 14-12 score, went to work on their game-winning drive -- a short six-play, 23-yard trip to the end zone that saw O’Dell scramble out of the pocket and float his touchdown pass to Reddington, who was all by himself in the middle of the end zone.
After Brendan Dyer then ran in the two-point conversion to make it a six-point game, the Quakers tried to answer right back, but three incomplete passes by quarterback Andrew Romano forced them to punt the ball with 2:20 on the clock.
When Lincoln went three-and-out on their ensuing series, the Quakers found themselves with one more shot to erase the Lions’ lead with 1:10 to play.
A 38-yard pass play from Romano to Joshua Gilkenson keyed a frantic drive that helped the visitors work the ball from their 20 to Lincoln’s 34, but with 11 seconds on the clock, Romano threw a long pass into the end zone that was picked off by O’Dell.
The Lions scored the night’s first points on the second play of the second quarter on an eight-yard touchdown run by O’Dell, but the Quakers came back with a six-yard TD run by Vincent Porcaro and the first of two extra points by Tim Graul.
But Lincoln went into the half with a 12-7 lead thanks to a trick play with 28.4 seconds to play that saw O’Dell toss a lateral pass to wide receiver Kyle Jackson at the Quakers’ 42 and Jackson turn around and air out a 42-yard touchdown pass to Dyer.
“That was actually something we were keeping in our back pockets, just in case we saw the need to use it,” said Waycott. “At that point, the way this game was going, we figured it was time to bring that one out and it worked out well for us.”
The Quakers reclaimed the lead with 6:11 to play in the third quarter on a 14-yard scoring run by Gilkenson that came after Samuel Yules turned a screen pass from Romano into a 45-yarder that brought the ball to the Lions’ 14.