The Railers travel to Chatham for a 7 p.m. kickoff.
enter the game ranked as the No. 3 team in Class 6A.
Lincoln is one of the smallest teams in the Class 5A division.
Each of the conference's state-ranked teams has a flavor of
There's the high-octane spread offense at Rochester (No. 2 in
Class 4A) and Jacksonville (No. 7 in Class 5A).
There's the storied tradition at Springfield's private school
powerhouse, Sacred Heart-Griffin (No. 4 in Class 6A).
And then there's Chatham, the league's juggernaut.
The Titans have the conference's second-largest enrollment at
1,326 students, trailing Springfield High, which has 1,450. Lincoln,
by comparison, has the second-smallest enrollment in the conference
with 841 students.
Not only is Chatham's enrollment over 50 percent larger than
Lincoln's but, as Lincoln coach Andy McDonald pointed out, the
school has a seemingly endless pipeline of athletes.
And, many of them play football.
Fifty-seven juniors and seniors are listed on Chatham's varsity
roster. The entire football program at LCHS -- from freshmen to
seniors -- numbers in the low 50s.
"They're very efficient in what they do on the field, for one
thing," said McDonald when asked how Chatham was able to be
consistently successful. "But since I've been back in the area,
they've just always had a lot of good athletes. They have a lot of
kids out for football. They've got 57 juniors and seniors on their
roster. That obviously helps. They've been successful playing
against teams of their own size.
"We were talking about the other day is that Chatham is very good
in all of their sports. They've got a great emphasis on athletics in
the community. They've got good athletes and kids that are dedicated
to their sports. It's a very dedicated, well-rounded athletic
program at the school."
Run, run, run
Another factor in Chatham's annual place at the top of the
conference standings is their consistent success running the
Especially running one particular play: the counter trey.
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The play is essentially a handoff to the running back that
features a slight misdirection for the defense. When the play is
successful, the opposing defense is tricked into shifting
slightly in the wrong direction, while the Titan running back
sprints to the outside of the offensive line in the other
Over the years, the Titans have been known to run the play dozens
of times in a single game.
While the Titans may lack the element surprise when running their
counter-trey play, they make up for it with almost flawless
The Railers' ability to limit the counter trey figures to be a
pivotal element in Friday night's contest.
"We've practiced against it. Some of the seniors have practiced
against it for four years, that counter-trey play," said McDonald.
"There are a few other teams in our conference that run it, too, but
Chatham does it the best, because they've been doing it. They run it
extremely well. It's a very tough play to defend consistently.
They've got big, strong linemen that are doing the job and then some
big strong backs. Our guys have prepared on how to stop it; they
know it's coming -- now we've just got to perform."
Countin' on Conner
The counter trey places tremendous pressure on the outside
linebacker of the opposing defense, which means the Railers will be
relying heavily on senior Conner Schmidt on Friday night.
Schmidt is a linebacker and running back for Lincoln. If the
Railers hope to pull off the upset, Schmidt will have to be big on
both sides of the ball.
"I'll have to be able to fill the holes. I can't let anything
outside me," said Schmidt of his objectives on defense. "I have to
run the alleys and stop them at the line of scrimmage."
Schmidt has at times been one of Lincoln's most valued players
this season after literally growing into a starring role.
The mild-mannered senior gained 30 pounds of muscle in the
offseason in preparation for his showcase role for the Railers this
He'll need all the muscle he's got on Friday night.
[By JUSTIN TIERNEY]
Justin Tierney's Railer football reports