“We’ve got a tough football team we’re going to play Friday night,” head coach Brad Wallace said. “Coach (Drew) Noles up in Etowah has done a real good job with them. I really think it’s going to be a tough ball game for us. We need to go out and play; we’ve got to learn how to play all four quarters. We’ve got to get through our first quarter jitters and get out there and get it done.”
One of the keys for Lincoln (1-3) will be trying to stop running back Paul Ruiz, a nominee for the Alabama Sports Writers Association Player of the week the last two weeks. Ruiz ran for a 95-yard touchdown two weeks ago and had a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown last week for the Blue Devils. Ruiz has compiled 352 yards rushing the last two weeks.
“Etowah is a dominant run team,” Wallace said. “They’ve got four or five backs that they can get the ball in their hands. They run a formation right now with a tight end; they try to spread out. It’s something similar to what we do, but they trap a lot more. It’s going to be a good competition for us. We’ve got to come off and we’ve got to play physical football this week. We showed the kids tape all week long. Hopefully, we’ve got them mentally prepared for this ball game.”
Wallace said practice has been spirited for the program this week.
“I’ve seen a lot of excitement,” Wallace said. “We had a little competition on Tuesday and it was a barnburner out there. They had some fun with it. The coaches had some fun with it. Football practice, yes it’s business, but sometimes you’ve got to let them play the game. We put the best of the best on each other and let them get after it for about 10 minutes. It was a 10-minute barnburner there for a little bit. The emotion is one thing we’re trying to get about this game. That’s one thing I want to instill in these kids. This is an emotional game; the one thing that you can’t do when the bad emotions start is you can’t just get your head and drop. You’ve got to fight through.”
The team will need to fight through this week, as they have been hurt by injuries.
“We’re battling injuries right now,” Wallace said. “We really are, I’ll admit to that. We’ve got a slew of starters that are not going to be playing this week just because of injuries. It kind of puts you in a bind; it puts you in a bind with depth, especially when you only have nine seniors.”
Another key this week for Lincoln is to gain some momentum early in the game. According to the Alabama High School Football Historical Society, Etowah ranks 16th in the state overall in scoring defense, allowing an average of 7.8 points per game.
“The key is to start out fast,” Wallace said. “That’s our main thing is start out fast, do the right things in the first quarter; no mistakes, try to cut down on as many mistakes as we can. That’s one thing that we’ve been working on is trying to get the mental aspect of the game. The third thing is just be physical. We’ve got to be physical from the time the ball is kicked off to the end of the ball game.”
The Golden Bears has struggled in the first quarter so far this season. Despite a sluggish start last week, the team managed to play well in the final three quarters for the win.
“I was proud of our kids,” Wallace said. “We had some adversity right at the beginning and I thought our kids fought back from it. I really did and I saw a lot of energy in them in the second, third and fourth quarter.”
The team will likely need another strong finish if they are to capture their first home win.
The Golden Bears host the Blue Devils tonight at Keith Howard Memorial Stadium at 7 p.m.