By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
For the 6th time in Lincoln High School’s history, the Cougar football team is headed to first-round playoffs this weekend where they will face off against Fairmont Senior High. The game will be played this Friday evening at East-West Stadium in Fairmont. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.
Last week Lincoln was ranked #8 among West Virginia’s AA schools; however, after their loss to North Marion last Friday night, the Cougars slipped to #13. Fairmont Senior is ranked #4 in the state.
As the Cougars approach this playoff game, Coach Rob Hawkins says they are feeling the excitement!
“Fairmont Senior is a team we are familiar with, and I believe the strengths of both teams will match up. We both have lots of good players at the skilled positions, and offensively, we are very similar,” Coach Hawkins said.
Noting that previous Cougar teams have five times made it to the playoffs without a win, Hawkins said this team’s goal is to change that this season.
“We always have great fan support, and we’re expecting to see lots of brown and gold in the stadium Friday night. It is good that this is a short trip for us – and easy for our fans – so we’re confident that they will be there in force to offer us lots of support,” he stated.
Looking at Lincoln’s past, during its first year of existence, Lincoln was a Class AAA school, and they were ranked #7 at the end of that season. Playing on the team that year was Jimmy Lopez, Lincoln High School’s current principal! Lopez recalls that there were only eight teams at that time that went to playoffs, and Lincoln that year (1979) was paired against Bridgeport (ranked #2). Bridgeport went on to capture the State AAA Championship that year.
What followed was a long, dry spell for the Cougars. Their next trip to the playoffs didn’t roll around until 1992 under Coach Frank Lopez, who again led the Cougars to a consecutive playoff visit in 1993.
Nine years later, in 2004, Jimmy Lopez again took the field with the Cougars – this time as their coach! “As I recall, Lincoln was ranked #14 that year, and we went up against Weir High School,” Lopez noted. “It’s a great achievement for any school to make it to the playoffs, but we’re certainly hoping that this year’s team might break that playoff losing streak.”
Coach Robert Herrod took the Cougars to the first-round playoffs in 2011 … which brings us to the present under Coach Rob Hawkins. However, there is more history being made as Principal (and former Cougar coach) Jimmy Lopez’s son Andrew is a member of the Cougar football team this year. Andrew, a senior, is a running back and has over 1,000 yards rushing this year. The playoff outcome remains to be seen, but perhaps 2011 will have been the final playoff defeat for the Cougars. ?????
Harrison County will certainly be well represented in the West Virginia football playoffs this year as four teams will be meeting the challenge in first-round playoffs. On Friday night, in addition to the Lincoln (7-3) vs. Fairmont Senior (8-2) matchup, another Harrison County AA school will take the field as well. #1 ranked Bridgeport (9-1) will host #16 Independence (7-3) at Wayne Jamieson Field on Friday evening at 7:30 p.m. as well. Bridgeport, State AA Champions in both 2013 and 2014, will try to defend their title.
Another Harrison County AA school has advanced to first-round playoffs too. Robert C. Byrd High School’s Flying Eagles (7-3), ranked #9, will meet up with #8 ranked Chapmanville (7-3) this Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
Among the A playoff contenders, Harrison County’s South Harrison Hawks (9-1), ranked #3, will host #14 Valley (Wetzel) (7-3) on Friday evening at 7:30 p.m.
Good luck to all Harrison County teams!