Originally Published: Aug 21, 2010 3:54 PM CDT
Oklahoma Sports Mobile Journalist
TULSA, Oklahoma – In two years of OSSAA football, all Lincoln Christian has accomplished is a 26-3 record, one state runners-up trophy, and a 2009 2A gold ball.
Not too shabby.
The road back to the 2A title game began in the offseason, when the Bulldogs had to find replacements for all of their graduating talent. Fifteen players moved on, leaving a pretty large hole in the Lincoln roster.
“You just have to put it behind you if you start a new season,” said defensive lineman Grant Towry. “You just start rebuilding. I like our chances. We’ve got a good team.”
Rebuilding may be an overstatement of sorts. Head coach Darren Melton and the Bulldogs still have plenty of quality pieces on the roster and are talented in the trenches. The offensive and defensive lines have size, speed and agility. The Lincoln defense only allowed 24 points in the playoffs last season.
“You get the bullseye on your back,” said Melton. “Part of that is the fun of coming back and trying to put together a ball club.”
Chris Turner steps in as the starting quarterback after two seasons as the primary backup. He replaces Cale Grauer, who was magnificent for Lincoln during their run to the championship.
“He was a commander on the field,” Melton said of Grauer, “but we feel like Chris has had some great role models to follow. He brings his own twist to the position.”
Turner takes over an offense that couldn’t be stopped in 2009. The Bulldogs scored 41.5 points per game. They scored 47 or more eight times.
“He’s probably the smartest guy out here,” said Towry. “He’ll always get us in the right position every play. If the backers are blitzing, he’ll check us into a better play. He’s a really bright kid.”
Turner thinks his experiences as a backup have helped him see the game differently.
“Being able to check things, check in-and-out of things, and read defenses is probably the biggest thing for me,” he said. “I’m ready to get on. I’m ready to start the season. It’ll be a fun year.”
Defensively, it will be tough to duplicate last season’s success. Lincoln allowed double-digit points just four times in 15 games, and posted shutouts five times in a seven week span in the middle of the season.
“Those guys come out here with a goal in mind now. They just want to go out every game and win a district title,” said Melton. “We work hard, and I know a lot of teams do, but these guys have really put in a lot of time.”
Lincoln Christian should have very few challengers in the district race in 2010. Pawhuska and Chelsea pose the biggest threats, but the Bulldogs beat both of them easily a year ago.
“I know these guys are excited about what’s going on,” said Melton. “They know what’s ahead of them and I think they’re ready for it. They’re a good bunch of kids.”
2009: 14-1/7-0 record, first in 2A-District 7.
PLAYOFFS: Won 2A state championship over Kingfisher in the 2009 postseason.
BEST PLAYER: Grant Towry. The senior is the self-proclaimed leader and he backs it up on the field. He missed time this offseason with a right foot problem but should be 100 percent by the time the season gets underway. His ability to get to the quarterback will help out a young secondary.
BIGGEST GAME: Week 3 vs. Pawhuska, September 24th. The Huskies and Bulldogs met last season in Week 8 tied atop the district. Lincoln downed them easily 48-0. They met again in the state semifinals. Lincoln, again, had no trouble with the Huskies, winning 47-0. Odds are, Pawhuska’s hungry for a win against Lincoln Christian.