The Division III Quarterfinals between #5 Santa Fe Christian and #4 Lincoln was a game for the ages, as the Hornets scored on the last play of regulation and used a two-point conversion to advance to the Semi’s by a score of 29-28.
Though Lincoln would need every second to pull out the victory, the Hornets, and specifically running back Micah Edwards, set the tone from the get go. On their third offensive play from scrimmage, Edwards showcased first his physicality breaking two tackles at the line of scrimmage, and second his speed bursting into the open field for a 48 yard touchdown. Lincoln would hold that 7-0 lead until the first play of the second quarter when Eagles quarterback Conner Whitton called his own number for a two yard touchdown run. On the ensuing Lincoln possession, the Hornets marched into the red zone on just five plays. Edwards would score his second touchdown of the night from 11 yards out putting Lincoln back on top 14-7 with eight and a half minutes remaining in the first half. Santa Fe Christian would answer right back with a 12 play drive chewing six minutes off the clock. The Eagles capitalized the drive when Josh Thompson took an end-around from the four yard line, needing every inch of his 5’8” frame to reach the goal line. Tied at 14, Santa Fe would get the ball right back when Matthew McCroskey intercepted an errant pass from Lincoln’s Asante Hartzog. The Eagles converted the turnover into points when Whitton found McCroskey in the end zone for a 19 yard scoring strike and Santa Fe took a 21-14 lead with 25 seconds remaining in the half.
The two teams traded possessions to start the third quarter. Lincoln, however, would continue to pound Edwards on the ground. Averaging seven yards per carry, Edwards literally carried the Hornets offense the entire night. Eventually scoring his third touchdown from the one yard line to tie the game at 21, Edwards’ most important run was still to come. Santa Fe would start their ensuing possession at the beginning of the final frame. Using another 12 play drive that lasted over half of the fourth quarter, the Eagles’ Kevin Loney scored on a six yard run to retake the lead, 28-21. With under five minutes remaining in the game, and the Hornets’ season on the line, Lincoln drove 80 yards, converted three 3rd downs, two 4th downs, and still found themselves at the 12 yard line down by seven with only three seconds left. Asante Hartzog then zinged a fastball into the hands of Coach’s son Daelyn Dunn, able to hang on through the contact of two Eagles defenders. Needing only a successful extra point attempt to send the game into overtime, Lincoln initially ran their kicker on the field. In what seemed to be an attempt to “freeze the kicker”, Santa Fe called timeout. Immediately, the Hornets Coaching Staff sent Micah Edwards and the Lincoln offense back out. Edwards would take the direct snap and power through the left side of the line for the winning two points. Leaving Santa Fe absolutely stunned, the Hornets dog piled Edwards, knowing they were now one win away from playing for CIF Championship.
Micah Edwards rushed 25 times for 175 yards and three touchdowns in the contest. As well as having the game winning two-point conversion, Edwards was extremely effective out of the backfield contributing 48 of his 87 receiving yards on the Hornets’ final drive. Lincoln will hope for a similar performance from their superstar tail back next week as they will travel to play #1 Christian, who remains undefeated.
PREVIEW: Since the recent realignment of Divisions throughout the CIF San Diego Section, numerous schools throughout the county are playing each other for the first time. In the Division III Quarterfinals, #5 Santa Fe Christian (9-2) will travel to play #4 Lincoln (6-4) in the first ever meeting between the Eagles and Hornets.
The unfamiliarity between these two teams could potentially benefit Santa Fe Christian, a smaller private school in Solana Beach. In years past, the Eagles have run the Wing T offensively. One of the toughest schemes to stop when executed with discipline, Santa Fe has been able to add a few wrinkles in recent years, especially through the air with Senior quarterback Connor Whitton. With a 60% completion rate, Whitton has been smart with his decision making, throwing for 11 touchdowns to just one interception. His most notable target has been tight end Caleb Phillips off of play action passes, as Phillips has over 500 receiving yards and six touchdowns on the year. That said, the Eagles are still very much a run first offense. Hank Ontiveros leads Santa Fe with 98 carries for 634 yards and 10 touchdowns, while fullback Demitri Washington and running backs Kevin Loney and Caleb Armendariz combine for 991 yards and 18 rushing scores. Washington imposes his will on defense as well, along with fellow defensive lineman Gavin Dill. The pair have nine sacks and 31 tackles for loss combined.
Lincoln will counter with a respectful rushing attack of its own. Though it is limited more to a one man backfield, that man is Micah Edwards. The Senior has rushed 113 times for 954 yards and 18 touchdowns alone. Battling injuries throughout portions of the year, Edwards has carried now for over 300 yards and six touchdowns in his last two games. A first round bye will have hopefully allowed him to heal even more. Definitely the lifeblood to the Hornets offense, Lincoln will hope to get Edwards going early on the ground to help set up quarterback Asante Hartzog in the passing game. Hartzog has thrown for nearly 1,500 yards and 13 touchdowns this season, mostly connecting with George McCorley, or Edwards out of the backfield. The two combine for 47 receptions, 620 yards and five touchdowns this season. Defensively, it will take a collective effort from the Hornets to slow down Santa Fe. With the amount of discipline and deception the Eagles run the offense with, the Hornets defense will need to be equally as disciplined in their assignments, and can ill afford any miscommunication. Junior linebacker Lamont Williams leads the way with 79 tackles and two interceptions for Lincoln.
Football coaches at any level will tell you the simplest way to win a game is by successfully running the ball on offense, and successfully stopping the run on defense. Total rushing yards and third down efficiency are two stats that could predict the winner during Friday’s contest. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, a win would guarantee a Turkey Day morning practice for the victors. It might also guarantee the turkey and stuffing tasting a little better that night too. Kickoff from the Hive at Lincoln High School is set for 7:00pm Friday night. Who will advance to the Division III Semifinals? Will they face #1 Christian or #9 Hilltop? Tune into KUSI’s Prep Pigskin Report at 10:30pm to find out!