SCOREBOARD Lincoln bounces back from tough start with impressive win

First regular season games inside Lincoln Park prove to be successful

WINNING CONNECTION – Lincoln quarterback Dyshaun Brooks (12) throws a touchdown pass to Jeremiah Jamison (9) during the Lions’ 22-0 win over Hoboken last week in Lincoln Park in Jersey City, giving Lincoln its first win of the season and handing the Redwings their first loss.
×
WINNING CONNECTION – Lincoln quarterback Dyshaun Brooks (12) throws a touchdown pass to Jeremiah Jamison (9) during the Lions’ 22-0 win over Hoboken last week in Lincoln Park in Jersey City, giving Lincoln its first win of the season and handing the Redwings their first loss.

The Lincoln High School football team found itself in a very precarious and uncharacteristic position last week before facing local rival Hoboken.
The Lions owned a 0-3 record. It was the first time that Lincoln lost its first three games of a season since 2006.
Another loss would have proved fatal to the most successful Jersey City public high school program over the last 20 years. Teams simply don’t recover from 0-4 starts. Those teams usually spiral downward toward oblivion.
Through it all, veteran Lincoln head coach Robert Hampton kept his composure.
“My attitude was that I thought we were in a strange place and I thought we were in trouble,” said Hampton, who has elevated the Lincoln program to heights no one thought was possible. “But after we lost our last game [a 17-6 setback to Whippany Park], I saw the kids coming in right away and looking at Hoboken film,” Hampton said. “I saw that they had the right mental approach. They knew that they made little mistakes that cost us the first three games. We just had to play straight hard defense. On the bus ride home from Whippany, there was nothing but quiet, as they were thinking about what they needed to do to get ready for Hoboken.”
Hampton called upon new assistant coach Matt Gallo to take over the defensive responsibilities. Gallo, a former Hoboken player and assistant coach, was the head coach at St. Anthony last season and came to Lincoln after St. Anthony closed its doors at the end of the last scholastic school year, leaving Gallo with nowhere to coach.
“Matt did a great job of calming the defense down and making them realize what they could do,” Hampton said. “He was a calmer voice, a more professional approach. When I was going nuts on them, they didn’t seem to listen. But they were listening to Matt. I watched Matt do his thing and let the kids play football.”
The Lions also switched their defensive alignment to become an unconventional 3-5-3 formation, with three down linemen, five linebackers and three secondary people.
“I wasn’t going to be the negative mindset anymore,” Hampton said. “I didn’t want the kids to spend the entire winter thinking about losing to Hoboken, hearing about losing to Hoboken. These kids all know each other.”
The Lions’ first three losses of the season were to Irvington, Mountain Lakes and then Whippany Park – not exactly schools in Lincoln’s backyard.
But this game was against Hoboken, an annual rival. Many of Hoboken’s players are from Jersey City and attend Hoboken due to the school choice program, so these were former classmates, former youth football teammates, all going against each other.
It didn’t matter that the Redwings owned an impressive 3-0 record this season under new head coach and former Hoboken great Keeon Walker. The Redwings had defeated Verona, Cedar Grove and Dover so far this season, giving people in the Mile Square City hope of perhaps another state title to go along with the county-record 10 NJSIAA state championship awards adorning the Hoboken trophy case.
It was basically time to throw out past records, because on paper, it sure looked like an undefeated and rolling Redwing contingent was going to manhandle the outmanned Lions.
“We had a very good week of physical practice,” said Hampton, who called upon former Lincoln greats like Darius Wade, Charles Cato and Ronald Butler to serve as a scout team and simulate what Hoboken does offensively.
“We needed something that resembled Hoboken’s speed,” Hampton said. “We figured that if we could stay with them, then we could stay with Hoboken.”
The Lions also received an emotional lift with the return of junior Jamar Casey, who missed two games due to injury.
“Once they saw their emotional leader suit up, they knew that another important piece came back,” Hampton said. “It enabled us to play with the ferociousness that we needed.”
The Lions also played with the “bend, but don’t break” philosophy. It meant that the Lions could give up the four-to-five yard runs, but not the big plays that the Redwings were getting through their first three wins.
Sure enough, the Lions were a totally different team. Sophomore quarterback Dyshawn Brooks showed tremendous poise and completed seven of 12 passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns. Senior Desmond Stevens caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Brooks and returned an interception back 38 yards for another score. Late in the game, Brooks connected on a 38-yard touchdown pass to Jeremiah Jamison.
And the Lions’ defense, spearheaded by people like Jordan Davis (10 tackles), Errol Allen and Yassan Jackson (eight tackles each) kept the high-powered Redwings off the scoreboard in a stunning 22-0 win.
Suddenly, the Lions’ season had life. They’re still in a 1-3 hole, but things are certainly brighter now for Lincoln.
Incredibly, because of the Presidents’ Cup going on at Liberty National Golf Course last weekend, the game was played at fittingly Lincoln Park, which is where the Lions practice daily.
The first regular season high school football game played at Lincoln Park was won by Lincoln. The only thing missing is that the game wasn’t played on February 12, which is of course, Lincoln’s birthday.
“It was a good win,” Hampton said. “It was a big game for us emotionally. We knew it was going to be a heated game. Now we’re moving in the right direction. It gives the kids some hope. We now have our team fully healthy, so we just have to keep moving forward.”
The Lions have a favorable matchup against winless 0-4 Parsippany this weekend. They move back to Caven Point Cochrane Stadium for this one, but last weekend was proof that Lincoln Park is more than a suitable option.
Credit goes to director Mike Ascolese and the Hudson County Parks staff for getting the field there ready for two high school football games. Dickinson played Bayonne there after the Hoboken-Lincoln game. Tents were erected to give the teams a place to prepare and rest before and during the games. It was really a phenomenal setting and a nice change of pace. Perhaps Lincoln Park could be utilized for other games in the future.
For now, it’s Lincoln who won on a field in a park named Lincoln and won a game it desperately needed to have.
“Our kids played hard and deserved to win,” Hampton said. “This is a group of boys who are playing old school football, taking it one day at a time.”
Right now, that time seems to be right for the Lions of Lincoln High School.

Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com. You can also read Jim’s blog at www.jimhaguesports.blogspot.com.