SAN DIEGO — Vic Player, Lincoln High School football coach, said he's thinking about using his usual halftime speech before tonight's nonleague game against Morse.
It's easy to understand why.
In the first half last week against Sweetwater, Lincoln fell behind, 21-0. However, it rallied to win, 22-21. Earlier this season, Lincoln trailed Point Loma, 21-0, then came back to tie the score in the second half before losing, 24-21, on a last-second field goal.
"I have no idea why we keep falling behind," Player said. "But I ought to bottle whatever it is I'm saying at halftime."
This week in practice, Player attempted to find out from his players what they thought the problem was. The answers made Player laugh.
"They were saying stuff like, 'The first half is kind of boring, coach,' " Player said. "Some others said, 'You have to feel a team out, coach.' I couldn't believe it. Sometimes, these guys are pretty funny."
Most of the time, they are pretty good. Lincoln (3-1) has won two consecutive San Diego Section 2-A championships, and it is ranked No. 4 in the county by The Times this week after defeating Sweetwater, which had been top-ranked, last week. Morse is ranked eighth.
"When we beat Sweetwater, it gave our kids a lot of confidence," Player said. "They knew they weren't just living on the Lincoln tradition. They knew they were good football players, too."
Morse's players probably already knew that. The players at both schools have known each other since they were young, growing up in the same southeast San Diego neighborhoods and playing Pop Warner games against each other.
"We know all of their guys and they know all of ours," said Larry Maxey, Morse's senior running back who leads the county in rushing with 586 yards. "This game is for the bragging rights in the neighborhood."
Last year, the bragging rights belonged to Lincoln. After one of Player's halftime speeches, Lincoln turned a 6-0 halftime lead into a 51-0 rout.
"How can I ever forget that game?" Maxey said. "We want to pay them back. We beat them in basketball last year and that helped get some of our esteem back, but it wasn't the same."
Morse's problems at quarterback contributed to its downfall last year against Lincoln. Coach John Shacklett tried three that night against Lincoln, but none could move the ball successfully.
"After that game, I knew we needed a new quarterback," Shacklett said.
He promoted Mike Liera from the junior varsity, and Liera went on to lead Morse to a berth in the 3-A playoffs. Tonight, Liera will play against Lincoln for the first time.
"I've noticed that their passing attack is much improved," Player said. "They are throwing the ball some. Of course, if they throw the ball once a game, that's a lot for John."
Lincoln, too, is throwing the ball more than Player would normally like. Of course, that's because it has been behind so much. Quarterback Freddie Stokes already has two 200-yard passing games this season, two more than Lincoln had last season.
"I'd really like to get back to a good, solid ball-control offense," Player said. "But we've played so poorly in the first half. We've got to execute better, so we can keep it on the ground."
Other Games to Watch
No. 3 Point Loma (4-0) at No. 5 Sweetwater (3-1)--It's not often that Sweetwater comes into any game off a loss. When Sweetwater lost to Chula Vista last season, it snapped a streak of 59 consecutive regular-season wins. The week after that loss, Sweetwater was beaten in the first round of the 3-A playoffs by Fallbrook.
Tonight, Sweetwater takes on Point Loma after a 22-21 loss to Lincoln last Saturday. Point Loma defeated Lincoln, 24-21, earlier this season.
"The first couple of days of practice this week were difficult," Sweetwater Coach Gene Alim said. "The kids were understandably down. But they've come back and practiced hard the last three days."
The game will feature Pierre Jones of Sweetwater, who has rushed for 561 yards (second in the county), and Kelby Downey of Point Loma, who has rushed for 472 yards (fourth in the county). Jones also leads the county in scoring with eight touchdowns.
No. 2 Mount Miguel (4-0) at No. 9 El Capitan (4-0)--It has been four years since El Capitan has had much success, and 14 years since the Vaqueros have had a better start than this season.
In 1973, which was Coach Joe Rockhold's second year at El Capitan, the team was 5-0. Tonight, El Capitan has a chance to equal that, but the Vaqueros are playing a team they haven't beaten since 1983, when El Capitan went 8-1 and won the Grossmont League championship.
"It's nice to be winning a lot of football games again," Rockhold said. "We've had some young players the last few years, and now we're putting things together."
El Capitan is led by junior quarterback Dan Freeman, whose father, Duane, is the offensive coordinator and the athletic director at Mount Miguel.