By Bill Nestor
The Lincoln football team has been at the top of the game under the tutelage of veteran mentor Rob Hawkins.
Last year, the Cougars corralled the #4 seed in Class AA. This year, Hawkins and company are prepared to take the next step towards a state championship.
Lincoln’s roster is 34 strong with 15 returning starters, and that experience is key according to Hawkins, “We have a lot of guys that have seen a lot of snags.” It is not only the fact that there are so many players that started on last year’s edition, it is also the additional players that saw extensive action that will fill the exciting voids.
“We had quality backups last year, and they will step up and fill those rolls,” Hawkins explained.
The offense will be run by senior signal-caller Nick Kellar. The center of his line will be senior Dakota Peele, and the guards are seniors Mason Quinones and Tyler Stevens. The tackles are seniors Kobi O’Dell and Caleb Miller. The backfield is a pair of standouts: seniors Antwan Hilliard and Levi Moore. The receivers include a foursome that is comprised of juniors Brayden Edgell, David Burdette, and Maddox Perine, and sophomore Aiden Rice. Burdette will also see time in the backfield. Juniors Gerald Parado and Noah Sears are also in the mix on the outside.
Junior Nate Swiger will also lend support in the backfield while fellow juniors, Riley Lanham and Dillon Shaw, will see time on the line.
On the defensive side of the ball, O’Dell and Peele are the tackles. The defensive ends are Quinones and senior Corbin Ayers. Shaw will also see reps at defensive end.
The linebacking corp is led by four-year starter Moore. Swiger joins him on the inside while senior Lance Hostuttler is the outside backer.
Hilliard moved from linebacker to join Burdette as the safeties. Parado and Edgell are the cornerbacks.
Special teams play is an integral part of any team’s success and Hawkins has top performers here, as well.
Junior Liam Gallagher is the kicker and Perine is the punter. Freshman Cade Riley is pushing for time at both positions. The kick returners are Swiger, Burdette, and Stevens. Edgell and Parado will handle the punt returning duties.
The Cougars will be under the lights at Stydahar Field on Sept. 9 against Grafton for their first home game of the season.
The schedule is full of playoff teams from a year ago and a few squads that narrowly missed out on the extra season.
The Cougars have all of the ingredients and experience to make this a special season. If they can stay healthy, they will be a force once again in Class AA.