By Chris Parker
Lincoln football has been one of the area’s most consistent teams over the past five year posting a 62-6 record with four district championships and two state runner-up finishes in the past two seasons.
Things will look different this year for the Cardinals with veteran head coach Brad Drehle taking over.
“I was drawn to Lincoln by the community support and level of success the program has experienced,” Drehle said.
He inherits a program that graduated seven all-state players from last season’s 14-1 state runner-up squad.
“In a program that has experienced the success that Lincoln has, the tradition is not just winning it is the work that goes into it,” Drehle said. “The young kids and returning players have to continue the work and constantly challenge each other to raise the bar. The bar at Lincoln is very high so it is a challenge, but the returning kids are excited to have an opportunity to continue the tradition.”
Drehle will put his stamp on the program, but some things will remain the same.
“Obviously Lincoln is doing a lot of great things to be as successful as they are. The deal for me is to connect the past to the future and keep things going. There will be subtle changes to things we do but we will honor the traditions that are in place,” Drehle said.
One all-state player does return for Lincoln in senior offensive and defensive tackle Gabe Meherns returning for his senior season. Meherns was third-team all-state as an offensive lineman last year. He also tallied eight tackles for a loss on defense.
Levi Betts is the top returning player on defense. As a junior, Betts was second on the team in total tackles with 125 while also pulling down two interceptions. He will also play tight end.
Devon Parrott (K) and Emidio Linares (OL/DL) round out the senior leaders.
“I have been very pleased with the way our seniors have stepped and helped lead the work,” Drehle said. “Gabe Meherns and Levi Betts have taken a leadership role in the things we do. Devon Parrott despite all he has had to do has really done a great job helping me with the young kids and Emidio Linares has lead by example in our summer conditioning.”
Kyle Eckhoff will step into the starting quarterback role and play free safety. Eckhoff, a sophomore, had 45 total tackles on defense while rushing for 115 yards and throwing for 73 in limited opportunities last season.
Sophomore Connor Lynde is the top returning receiver after catching 35 balls for 433 yards. He will also play cornerback.
Ross Johnson (sophomore RB/LB), Caden Smallwood (junior WR/CB), Lee Yutzy (junior WR/LB), Steven Kranz (sophomore OL/DL) and Mack Hesse (sophomore DE) will be other players to watch for Lincoln.
Finding time to get to know the players has proved tough in the COVID-19 pandemic for Drehle, but Lincoln is up for the challenge.
“The challenge is time. Part of implementing anything is time. We have to invest time into each other so that we can build the relationships necessary to develop trust. We are still learning each other at this point. I like what I have seen and am excited to move forward,” Drehle said. “I believe our kids have accepted the challenge to replace the young men that graduated. I expect them to continue the tradition of Lincoln football.”
Lincoln opens the season on Aug. 28 at home against Midway.