In perhaps the coldest practice of the 2016 season yet, Lincoln football head coach Danny Morrison, the Lincoln staff and its players were marching up and down the field, methodically perfecting plays — up to five or six times in a row.
Wednesday’s process resembled Lincoln’s performances so far in 2016. Entering Friday’s matchup at Cole Camp, the Cardinals are confident, focused and undefeated.
With history as far back as the Civil War behind its rivalry with Cole Camp, Morrison said the Lincoln Cardinals football team needs no extra motivation to prepare for Friday’s matchup between the two.
“It is a rivalry game, and the kids will be up for it,” Morrison said. “But our goal is to end the season undefeated, and not necessarily get too caught up in the rivalry. The kids will be up enough for that, themselves.”
Lincoln exited the postseason last season with a 42-8 loss to Skyline in the Class 1, District 4 final. However, the buzz about 2016 being Lincoln’s year was audible years ago.
Cole Camp had similar hopes last season. Senior-heavy, and fresh off a two-loss season, the Bluebirds finished a disappointing 6-3 in 2015.
Entering Friday’s game 7-1, Cole Camp head coach Kevin Shearer said the team relishes an opportunity to play spoiler.
“For small schools, talent, numbers, staying healthy and all of those thing, it comes and goes.” Shearer said. “You do have to take advantage of those moments when they come by. I think Lincoln is in a cycle where they have a lot of talent. We’re excited to be the underdogs and maybe flip the tables on them.”
Last season, the Cardinals capitalized on turnovers to transform a close game with Cole Camp into a 32-6 final.
Shearer said his Bluebirds must limit mistakes and contest Lincoln in every element of the game.
“We hope we can control the football a little bit better and catch some of the breaks,” Shearer said. “We have to match their emotion. We need to match their confidence level, as I call it, their swag.”
Matching Lincoln’s swag may be a tall order.
Confidence is high for the Cardinals, having defeated all eight of its opponents by more than 38 points. Despite that feat and a sparkling record, some games were disappointing to Morrison, such as a September 48-18 victory over Tipton.
“We gave up three touchdowns,” Morrison said. “One of them was on a kickoff return. Two of them were on blown assignments.”
He said Lincoln’s success is based on discipline, goal-setting and chasing perfection.
“Ultimately, we want to get all the way to the last level,” Morrison said. “And unless we’re doing everything perfect, that’s not going to happen. So that’s why we focus on those things. Because we can lose this week and still make a run.
“We don’t plan or intend on it … but we’re just trying to fix everything that we can fix so that we play perfect football. And until we’re doing that, we’re not going to be satisfied.”
Kickoff in Cole Camp is 7 p.m. Friday. Shearer said he looks forward to a full house.
“A lot of the fathers played each other back in the day,” Shearer said of the Lincoln-Cole Camp rivalry. “I think both communities are vested. I think Lincoln sees a team that can make a run, and that doesn’t come along every day. Hopefully it’s the biggest crowd we’ve seen in any event this year.”
Alex Agueros can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @abagueros2