Because, for long stretches of the contest, the Railers appeared to
be the superior team.
Yet, the scoreboard didn't reflect that at game's end.
And that's what stung coach Jared Shaner and his team.
"I said it coming into the week: I felt like we were the better
team," said Shaner.
"I mean, congratulations to (Lanphier). They
beat us. But it felt like we moved the ball. I thought we gave up some big
plays, which is something we talked about all week, which is tough not to do
against the type of athletes that they have. The frustrating part is that it's
the same thing that I told the kids before the game: It comes down to
Yes, it most certainly did.
After taking a 20-14 lead into halftime, the Railers got the ball to
start the second half with a chance to go ahead by two touchdowns.
But, hopes of a two-touchdown lead were dashed when quarterback
James Leisinger fumbled as he tried to fight for extra yards, giving
the Lions possession.
In a critical spot, the Railer defense -- with some help from Lanphier penalties
-- held strong. Lincoln kept the Lions from
putting points on the board and got the ball back with another
chance to go ahead by two touchdowns.
But, again, the Railers literally fumbled away the chance. A botched
Lincoln handoff was recovered by the Lions, and this time, the
Railers paid for it. Lanphier went ahead 21-20 early in the fourth
quarter after running back Everett Clemons scored from two yards
Clemons, it turned out, was just getting started.
After the Lions' defense kept the Railers out of the end zone on the
ensuing possession, Clemons broke tackles in the backfield and
reversed field to bolt 46 yards to pay dirt along the Lanphier
sideline to put the Lions ahead 28-20 with 5:46 to go in the fourth
With their backs against the wall against a two-touchdown deficit,
Lincoln went to the air, only to see the third and final turnover of
the night. Leisinger was intercepted by Lanphier's Lance Boozer.
Boozer returned the ball to the 4-yard line, setting up Clemons'
third touchdown of the fourth quarter just moments later, which left
the Railers trailing 34-20.
Lincoln didn't go down without a fight, though.
Leisinger found receiver Darvez Stancle with a pass that Stancle
turned into a thrilling 69-yard touchdown with 1:35 to play. A
converted extra point left Lincoln trailing 34-27.
Then, things got even wilder.
The Railers recovered an onside kick attempt and advanced the ball
across the 50-yard line with under a minute to go.
But on fourth-and-six, Leisinger's pass fell just beyond the reach
of running back Zach Schleder, effectively ending Lincoln's comeback
Second-half mistakes -- particularly the three turnovers -- haunted Shaner.
[to top of second column]
"We're moving the ball, we've already gained 20-some yards on
them, and on a quarterback sneak, we fumble," said Shaner. "Then
we had the interception late in the game, when we're trying to
make a play.
"It's just very frustrating. I felt like we probably had our
best defensive effort, if you take off the seven points after that
interception return. Just a frustrating feeling."
Senior captain Stephen Duncan said the root for the frustration
came in how the Railers started the second half.
"What makes it frustrating is that we just flat out didn't come
to play in the second half," said Duncan. "That's all there is
to it. We came out in the first half the way we needed to.
"But we came out in the second half and didn't do anything
right. Came out, had turnovers. You just can't have turnovers in
a close game, and that's what beat us in the end. It's not
because on the last drive we didn't complete the pass. That's
not the fact. It's all the plays that happened before that.
"Turnovers -- can't have them. Blown plays -- can't have
them … just mental mistakes that we just can't have."
The plainly obvious bright spot for the Railers was the play of
Stancle, who finished the game with six receptions, 157 yards
and three highlight-reel touchdown catches.
"He's just an unbelievable kid," said Shaner of Stancle.
"He's just really a neat kid. Nobody deserves anything more than him. He has
worked his rear end off. I mean, 150 yards receiving again this week, making
some unbelievable catches that a lot of kids just can't make."
Leisinger finished the night 9 for 24 for 235 yards, with four
touchdowns and one interception. Other than the three touchdown
tosses to Stancle, Leisinger also connected with running back
Jordan Sandrolini on a 48-yard touchdown in the first quarter
that gave Lincoln a 7-0 lead.
The Railer rushing attack combined for 148 yards on 31 attempts,
led by Sandrolini's 35 yards on 10 attempts.
Lincoln will need to rid themselves of the loss's bitter taste
before next week's homecoming game against Springfield
"One thing we talked about with the kids a lot this week is
that, I guess the beauty and the worst part about football is
that you only get one opportunity per week," said Shaner. "And
now you've got to go sit on a heartbreaker for at least a few
"And then you've got to try to put it behind you and prepare
for Southeast. It's another game. Coming in, we thought we had two in a row
that we had legitimate chances to win. I'd say we should have won this one."
[By JUSTIN TIERNEY]