But, for the Lincoln Railer football team, tonight's home opener
also happens to be against arguably the program's biggest rival over
the last five seasons.
Now that's something special.
Lincoln will take on Springfield Lanphier tonight at Handlin
Field. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
If this year's game is anything like the previous five battles
between the Railers and Lions, fans can expect a thriller.
Every game between the two teams since the 2007 season has been
decided by 15 points or less, with three of five games decided by
seven points or less. Lincoln has won two of the five contests,
including an incredible win last season at Memorial Stadium on a
last-second 3-yard touchdown run by Andy Krusz.
Railer head coach Andy McDonald expects this year's game to be
"We prepare for every game as if it's a tough battle. And we
expect this to be the same," said McDonald. "Lanphier is going to be
a good ballclub. They're probably better than they were last year.
I'm expecting for it to come down to the wire."
That would be a welcome change for players and fans who were
disheartened by last week's 48-0 loss in the season opener at
McDonald said last week's loss has already been forgotten and
credited his team for their positive attitude in practice this week.
"We've had a good week of practice, especially the last couple of
days," said McDonald. "I think they're excited for the home opener.
That's always a big morale boost -- the anticipation of the first
home game. I've been pleased with the attitude, enthusiasm and work
ethic this week."
No Clemons, but still speedy
Aside from the memorable finish, last season's contest may be
most remembered for the performance of Lion tailback Everett
Clemons ran for 328 yards on 30 attempts and scored three
touchdowns. The lightning-quick senior -- who also starred for the
Lions on the basketball court -- gashed the Railers multiple times
for long runs to the outside, slipping past and running by would-be
While Clemons is no longer a threat, team speed is still a
strength for Lanphier, according to McDonald, who also said proper
tackling would be important to containing the Lions' ball carriers.
"We talk about (tackling) all the time," said the coach. "We do
tackling drills. We work on the skills of tackling and getting more
tacklers to the ball.
"I don't think they have an Everett Clemons-type of player, but
they've got some good backs and some speed, guys who run hard. Every
game we've got to get better at making plays and getting guys to the
Another Krusz taking control
As Andy Krusz emerged heroic in last season's victory, his
younger brother Austin watched from the sidelines.
This week -- and this season, really -- it's Austin's turn for
[to top of second column]
Austin Krusz started his first varsity game at quarterback in
last week's season-opener, and while the final score wasn't
pretty, the junior put together a solid outing for a first-time
starter. Krusz finished 4 for 9 for 66 yards.
Recognizing the Railers' predominantly run-based offense, Krusz
said his expectations for himself are to manage the game
He gave himself mixed reviews on that front last week. While
pointing out that the Railer offense had no turnovers, Krusz stated
clearly that he has things to work on, such as handling the snap
"If I can take care of the ball, not throw any picks, then that's
a pretty good game," said Krusz. "Last week, I had two bobbled
snaps. That's one thing that really ate at me. The coaches are
relying on me to have the ball in my hands every time.
"But, one of the things from last week that I felt we did well
was that we didn't have any turnovers. To that point, it was a good
game. Beyond that, I just want to get the balls to my receivers
consistently throughout the game."
McDonald gave Krusz high praise for his first varsity start and
said he expects to see more growth from his junior pupil.
"I think so. He did a good job of leading the team out there. He
kept his chin up," said McDonald. "He really did a good job of doing
most things well, which is what we expected of him. This week, he'll
have another game under his belt and probably be a little bit more
"We have a lot of confidence in Austin. He's a smart kid, a
hardworking kid. He's going to keep getting better and better."
Krusz admitted to some pregame jitters before last week's game
and said he expects to be a bit nervous for this week's home opener
"I was really nervous going into the game. But once I got the
first snap out of the way, the adrenaline kind of kicked in," said
Krusz. "This week, being at home, I expect to be kind of the same
"There will be more Lincoln fans there, and I want to prove to
them that they can rely on their quarterback, instead of having some
guy out there who doesn't know what he's doing."
Lincoln-Lanphier results over the
last five seasons:
2011: 32-26 W
2010: 34-27 L
2009: 14-28 L
2008: 49-34 W
2007: 33-27 L
[By JUSTIN TIERNEY]
Justin Tierney's Railer football reports