Lincoln vows improvement after 3-7 campaign Coach Hampton turns to veteran group to take step up
Sep 30, 2008 | 1416 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
There were high hopes and expectations last season for the Lincoln High School football team. Head coach Robert Hampton was in the third year of rebuilding the program at his alma mater. The Lions had a veteran roster that was filled with talented performers.

But things didn't exactly click for the Lions and they sputtered to a 3-7 record, the same mark that they posted during the previous year.

Now, as Hampton begins his fourth season at Lincoln, he knows that the team has to improve on last year's debacle.

"It's a tremendous motivation with this year's team," said Hampton, whose team defeated Kearny, 24-6, to get the season off on the right foot last weekend. "What happened last year, we talk about every day. The talent level was definitely there, but we just had a lack of focus. The immaturity beat us. We're still dealing with getting the kids mentally tough and don't let the little things bother them and beating them. They're doing a better job of that.

Added Hampton, "I knew this was a journey and things weren't going to happen overnight, but last year was a disappointment. We just have to believe we're good. That's the first step. I think we showed the potential we have with the win over Kearny. We have to do a better job of being consistent. They have to understand that football is a very cerebral game. They have to understand that they have to bring it every play and not waste time whining and crying. It can be done the right way and we showed that in our first game."

The Lions collected more than 400 yards in total offense in the win over Kearny and utilized three quarterbacks in the game.

"It's like baseball, having a starting pitcher and then there's the bullpen," Hampton said. "Well, we had the starter, a middle guy and a closer."

The leading quarterback is returning starter Lamar McKnight (6-3, 185), who has all the tools to be a very good one. He has the height, the throwing arm and the speed. "He's the complete package," Hampton said. "He's a very gifted kid and great athlete. He has a tremendous arm and an elusive runner."

Sophomore Ronald Butler (5-11, 160) was the second quarterback used in the win over Kearny, while versatile senior Kenneth Brandon (5-10, 180) finished up.

"Brandon completed changed the face of the game," Hampton said. "We put him in at quarterback and he gave us a look like West Virginia with Pat White."

Brandon rushed for 110 yards in the first game. Hampton doesn't know how long he plans on going with the three-headed QB approach, but he knows one thing.

"I have to find a way to keep all three on the field," Hampton said.

Sophomore Tyrone Stevens (5-10, 190) is the Lions' main threat at running back. Stevens had 140 yards rushing in the season opener.

The fullback is junior Azziz Wright (5-11, 185). Junior Daryl McKnight (6-2, 185), the brother of the quarterback, is a mainstay at wide receiver, as is senior Tyquion Miller (5-9, 160), the point guard on Lincoln's state championship basketball team last winter.

A pair of seniors, Nate Smalls (5-7, 160) and Calvin Bryant (5-8, 185), are versatile performers in the backfield or as a receiver.

The offensive line has good size and experience, led by tackle Alterik Perry (6-1, 260), who is a three-year starter. Junior Jermaine Myrick (6-2, 240) joins Perry at tackle, with senior Samard Walker-Butler (6-2, 250), the county champ in the shot put and discus during outdoor track season and senior Darius Clark (6-2, 230) at the guards. Senior Nate Williams (6-1, 220), whom Hampton pointed out is a member of the National Honor Society, is the starting center.

The Lions utilize a 4-4 defensive scheme, with senior David Wallace (6-2, 235) and junior Jose Bautista (6-2, 200) at defensive ends and Perry and Myrick at defensive tackle.

Stevens and junior Q Mack (5-9, 180) are the inside linebackers, with Bryant and junior Terrance Thomas (5-11, 175) are the outside linebackers.

Junior Larrell Snell (5-7, 160) is at one cornerback, joined by Brandon, whom Hampton believes is one of the best defensive backs in the county. Brandon has been a fixture in the Lions' secondary for three seasons.

The safeties are Miller and junior Marcus Hobbs (5-7, 150), who can flat out fly.

So the potential is there. Hampton knows the Lions have to improve this season. Another 3-7 record won't cut it.

"We can't get used to the same record," Hampton said. "Things are improving. I'm hopefully optimistic. But until I feel like we've turned the corner, I can't say anything. Physically, we're all right. Mentally, I still think we're challenged. We're just young. We're brilliant some moments and some moments, I want to pull my hair out. But we're continuing to make progress." - Jim Hague
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