NARRAGANSETT – Two steps forward, one step back.
All of the good vibes Lincoln High gained in beating previously undefeated Moses Brown the previous week went up in smoke Saturday at Zepp Field. Turnovers and several ill-timed penalties were the major bugaboos in a 23-7 setback to Narragansett High that places the Lions squarely on the bubble of the Division III playoff scene.
“We completely beat ourselves,” was the quick-to-the-point assessment Lincoln head coach Dave Waycott offered after his club slipped to 3-3 in the league, a record now shared by the Mariners.
Added senior quarterback Ryan O’Dell, “All of the wins we had earlier in the season, they don’t mean anything now. We’ve got to fight for our lives to make the playoffs.”
The Lions were guilty of 10 penalties for 85 yards. The two that stuck out the most came with the Mariners facing fourth-and-short yardage. In both instances the Lions were whistled for encroachment, which automatically resulted in fresh set of downs for the home team.
The transgressions loomed even larger after Narragansett capped off both drives with scores. In the second quarter the Mariners went from fourth-and-three to Chris Salomone drilling a 26-yard field goal as time expired. The play capped off a 10-play, 62-yard drive that also featured quarterback Mark Griffith picking up 17 yards on a third down scramble, which no doubt Salomone was thankful for as the Mariners took a 9-0 lead into halftime.
Lincoln’s inability to wait for Narragansett to hike the ball surfaced again late in the third quarter, this time the Mariners facing fourth-and-one from the Lions’ 42-yard line. Once again Lincoln paid the price for jumping the gun, as Narragansett’s Julien Nelson widened the gap courtesy of a 1-yard score three plays into the fourth quarter.
On a day in which the Lions were assessed 60 yards in personal fouls, it was two penalties totaling 10 yards that loomed large.
“We were our own worst enemy today,” said Waycott. “We had five penalties (against Moses Brown) and I thought we were going in the right direction, but apparently that wasn’t the case.”
After a lackluster first half that saw O’Dell briefly leave after absorbing a shot to his neckline, Lincoln started the second half with a score on its initial offensive series. Junior Anthony Palombo finished off a 9-play, 79-yard drive by beating several Narraganett defenders to the right corner, the play covering 4 yards.
The good vibes quickly went out the window on the ensuing kickoff. In the words of Narragansett head coach Dick Fossa, senior captain Kieran Kenny was able to “squirt” free from a sizeable scrum near the Mariners’ 30, taking off for a 90-yard kickoff return that placed the Lions in a 16-7 hole.
There were other mistakes too, as Lincoln committed two fumbles after receivers had made the catch. There was also the recovered kickoff by the Mariners deep in enemy territory in the second quarter, as not a single Lion picked up the ball after it had rolled the required 10 yards.
“The previous two kickoffs had sailed out of bounds and they thought (the one eventually recovered by the Mariners) would do the same,” said Waycott.
Like the loss to Burrillville earlier in the month, Saturday’s defeat to Narragansett has the potential of coming back to haunt Lincoln. All three schools are in contention for the final playoff berth. If it comes down to tiebreakers, then the Lions have no hope of playing meaningful football after their Thanksgiving Eve date with Central Falls.
Lincoln has two league dates remaining (next Saturday at Classical and Nov. 5 at home versus Middletown).
“Maybe we need to play desperate in order to see what works,” said O’Dell, who finished with 139 passing yards on 10 completions.