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THEY'RE A TRACK TEAM IN HELMETS . . . : The Lincoln High School Hornets Are Few and Small in Numbers, but They Score in a Big Way

October 01, 1985|MARC APPLEMAN

SAN DIEGO — Lincoln High's football team has scored as many touchdowns in their first two games as they had players show up on the opening day of practice.

The score is tied at 14.

The Hornets have scored 14 touchdowns in their 56-8 win over Centennial High of Compton and 41-10 victory over Patrick Henry. That's 97 points in 96 minutes. And their quick, free-wheeling offense has gained 1,221 yards.

One month ago, first-year Coach Skip Coons barely had enough players to field a baseball team. Coons said he was almost numb when he was greeted by 14 players out of a student body of 700 students. Nineteen players, including 11 starters, graduated or transferred from last year's team that went 7-3.

Last year's coach, Ray Hooper, left Lincoln amid considerable controversy. In the spring semester, allegations of misconduct were brought by the school against Hooper. He was reassigned pending the outcome of an investigation conducted by the school district.

The district recommended that Hooper be suspended. Hooper is awaiting a hearing by a state appointed board as to whether his dismissal will hold, according to George Russell, assistant superintendent of the personnel services division of the San Diego school district.

Until Coons was hired during the summer, the football program at Lincoln was in a state of flux.

"In the spring," Coons said, "the kids were not sure they'd have a football team and a few panicked and went to other schools."

The unsettled situation left prospective players thinking that playing for Lincoln might not be the "in" thing to do this year.

That was before 50-yard sweeps and 60-yard touchdown passes became a Hornet trademark.

The first hint that the Hornets might be exciting and competitive came in a preseason scrimmage against Vista. Lincoln outscored Vista, four touchdowns to two.

That performance gave the tired nucleus of 14 players a big confidence boost. Confidence often breeds success and success often breeds a jump on the bandwagon. Once the season started, word of the Hornets' offensive machine quickly spread around campus. With each win and successful fly pattern, it became more chic to play football.

"We're getting our respect back," wide receiver Patrick Rowe said. "All of a sudden, some of those players (who transferred) want to come back and play for Lincoln."

Going into Friday's game against Kearny, Lincoln has 26 players, which is almost double what Coons had on the first day of practice. However, four are academically ineligible. It's no surprise that seven players play offense and defense.

"At the start of the season," Coons said, "I guess they took a let's-see-what-this-sucker-can-do-for-you attitude. That's confidence for you."

What they've seen is a multiple offense that is truly multiple and not just a catch-all phrase used to describe a pro set.

Before the season began, Coons had no idea what type of offense would work with a team that lost its star quarterback, Steve Taylor, and had only two offensive starters returning.

When it became evident he would have enough players to field a team, Coons decided to experiment with offensive formations. He didn't know much about his players, but he could see that their sizes and weights resembled junior varsity players.

Lineman Tom Jones is 5-feet 7-inches and maybe 160 pounds. Coons chuckles when he said that his offensive line averages 5-10 and 175 pounds.

"We sneak them (linemen) in," Coons said. "Don't tell our opponents that because they'll kill us."

If they can catch them.

Coons quickly discovered he had a small, but extremely fast and talented group of athletes that could virtually do it all. They could run, throw and catch the football. And with a little discipline, they could be taught to play defense.

Six of his players, including senior quarterback Malcolm Glover, running back Keith Mitchell and Rowe, were members of a Pop Warner team that won the county championship three straight years.

From 1978-80, they lost only one game. Not only were they a dominant offensive club, but the team's coach, Lloyd Johnson, recalls that the team went two years (1978 and '79) without being scored upon.

"That team was quick and really awesome," Johnson said.

To inherit a track team in helmets blended in perfectly with Coons' football background.

Speed has been his ally since he was a fleet wide receiver on the 1959 San Diego High team that crushed Monrovia, 53-0, to win the Southern California Interscholastic Federation title.

"In my neighborhood," Coons said, "a guy who ran a 10.1 or 10 flat (in the 100 yard dash) was one of the guys we left behind. On our team, we had nine backs that ran a 9.8. I ran a 9.9 and was considered one of the slow guys."

Coons is heavier and less swift than he was in his playing days, but the offensive philosophy he picked up at San Diego High has remained with him. He coached a lot of defense as an assistant at Morse, but offense is his first love.

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