Home USA News Lincoln defeated Monroe in the 3A state football tournament

Lincoln defeated Monroe in the 3A state football tournament

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Lincoln running back Navarro Dixon pulls a Monroe defender during Saturday's 3A South state football playoff game at the Lincoln Bowl in Tacoma, Wash., Nov. 12, 2022. Lincoln won the game 49-16.

Lincoln running back Navarro Dixon pulls a Monroe defender during Saturday’s 3A South state football playoff game at the Lincoln Bowl in Tacoma, Wash., Nov. 12, 2022. Lincoln won the game 49-16.

toverman@theolympian.com

It was billed as a potential shootout between two big-time offenses when the Monroe Bearcats visited the Lincoln Abes in the first round of the Class 3A state football tournament at the Lincoln Bowl on Saturday afternoon.

However, it turned out that only Lincoln received an invitation to the track meet. The only offensive offense of note came courtesy of four-star quarterback Gabbara Johnson, a Missouri commit, and fourth-seeded Abes, who cruised to a 49-16 victory to advance to the state quarterfinals.

Lincoln led 29-8 against No. 13 Monroe at the half. Lincoln’s offense forced four turnovers in the first half — a fumble and three interceptions — making Monroe’s offense look pedestrian. Entering Saturday’s game, Monroe was averaging 46.9 points per game.

“We just came into this week really just wanted to focus on our defense,” Lincoln safety Stephon Pugh said. “We dropped too many points last week, so we just wanted to come in and show better coverage, and that’s what we did.”

Monroe had just eight points on the scoreboard early in the fourth quarter. Lincoln coach Masaki Matsumoto expected this type of defensive effort.

“We challenged the defense, we haven’t peaked yet,” Matsumoto said. “It was an offense that carried us all season, even last week. … They read their keys well today. We stayed at home. It was a great performance for our defense.”

Monroe’s defense seemed intent on stopping Johnson’s ability to run early, so Lincoln’s star dual-threat linebacker took to the air. He completed 18 of 28 passes for 219 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 98 yards and 14 carries. Johnson has shown the ability to put up hundreds of yards on the ground in any given week, but on Saturday, he made his living mostly by passing.

“A lot of defenses know I can run, so they just expect that first,” Johnson said. “Every time we get a team like that, (my coach) just says to go low in the passing game. Hooks, screens, such little things.

“Every week I’m just getting better at picking the low-hanging fruit and letting my receivers do the work. Receivers are getting better every week, making people bored. The line does a great job with who comes and who doesn’t. Shout at them.”

After a high snap flew over Johnson’s head for a safety in the first quarter, Lincoln fought for momentum after trailing by a point and never looked back. Kelly Sio-Fettaui gave the Abes the lead with a 1-yard run, Johnson extended the lead with an 11-yard run, and Johnson found Drake Granberry for a 28-yard touchdown that gave Lincoln a 29-8 halftime lead.

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Lincoln quarterback Gabary Johnson makes a pass under pressure from Monroe quarterback Gavin Rantz during Saturday’s 3A South state playoff game at the Lincoln Bowl in Tacoma, Wash., Nov. 12, 2022. Lincoln won the game 49-16. Tony Overman toverman@theolympian.com

SEC-BOUND QUARTERBACK PLAYING SAFETY? BELIEVE

Johnson appeared at safety in various spots throughout the game, most notably on obvious third down passes. Matsumoto said he was inspired by watching Gee Scott Jr., then at Ohio State, play both ways for Eastside Catholic when the Crusaders beat the Abes in the semifinals of the 2019 state tournament. Scott, who was headed to Ohio State as a highly touted wide receiver, also played cornerback against Lincoln.

Sure, it’s a little different than playing quarterback on defense, but the point remains: whatever it takes to win, especially in the state tournament.

“We have a chance this year to go as far as we can,” Matsumoto said. “Let’s just roll all the dice. We were shocked that G. Scott was playing corner at Eastside Catholic. We have to have the same mentality. Everything we have to do to win.”

It helped that Johnson had intercepted three passes the day before while playing safety in practice. He almost threw an interception against Monroe.

“We just want to do whatever it takes to win,” Johnson said.

FURTHER

Monroe’s season is coming to an end. The Bearcats finish with a 9-2 record, losing to Ferndale in the regular season before losing to Lincoln in the state tournament.

Lincoln will host No. 5 Bellevue — the defending state champion — in the quarterfinals of the state tournament at the Lincoln Bowl, date and time to be determined. Bellevue crushed Mead in the first round, 41-10. Bellevue’s Wing-T will be a unique challenge.

“It’s going to be a nightmare,” Matsumoto said, laughing. “We will have a headache. That was my goal this offseason, to learn how to better defend the Wing-T. I visited different trainers. We feel better about what we are going to do. Now we just have to execute and prepare them.

“We will not regret this year. I did my part, academically. I pushed the kids a lot, and we’re going to be really methodical in terms of how we practice (defending) the Wing-T, and if we lose, they’re just going to be a better team than us.”

This story was originally published November 12, 2022 at 7:07 p.m.

John Manley covers high school sports for The News Tribune. A McClatchy President’s Award winner and Gonzaga University graduate, Manley has been lighting up the South Sound sports scene since 2013. Born and raised in Tacoma.

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