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10/13/2013 - From The Press Box: East's Turnaround Paying Off
 Give credit where credit is due.

After five seasons of lackluster outcomes, which included one brief playoff appearance, the Lincoln East football team is back in the spotlight this year as a major playoff contender. 

The talent level has increased tremendously at 1000 South 70th Street.  Just a couple of years ago, this group of kids that are now juniors and seniors were city champs at the freshman level.  Now that talent is starting to pay off for East's head coach John Gingery.

Not since Jim Ebke was quarterbacking the Spartans to an 8-1 regular season finish and an opening round playoff appearance in 2007 has East looked this good.  Not trying to knock the coaching or talent pool, but this is a program after all that had so much greatness on the football field all those years ago.

East has won state football titles under the current playoff system twice.  Their first one was in the inaugural playoff post season in 1975 and the last was in 1979, led by quarterback Todd Zart.  Then a dry spell in the post season hit for about a 13-year period before making it back in 1997, only to lose to Omaha Benson, who were led by Randy Stella and Kenton Keith.  While it's been 34 years since their last state crown, the Spartans are taking things one game at a time.

A two-quarterback system works for the East offense.  Greg Dittman and Shane Watteyne both can run and throw the ball.  Mason Tyrell and Jesse Johnson are great running backs and RJ Dennis is a solid receiver.  The East line is solid, led by junior Will Ozaki, and the defense is just as good.

Friday night's 21-10 victory over longtime rival Lincoln Southeast established East as the city power this season, which may have been established already. 

However, the Spartans can't ease up on the gas pedal just yet.  A beat up Norfolk ball club will host East on Friday night and next week, Lincoln Southwest will battle the Spartans for the District title.  The next two weeks will be a test.

Spirit Sword Stays at Christian

For the fifth straight year, the coveted Spirit Sword will stay put at Lincoln Christian, after their 65-14 rout of Lincoln Lutheran on Friday.  The sword, which symbolizes the bond in faith shared between both schools, has been in the Crusader trophy case since 2009. 

Christian leads the all time Spirit Sword series 7-4 with Friday's win.  The first three seasons, Lutheran won before the Crusaders won in 2006 and 2007.  The Warriors last won the game in 2008.

I like these type of games because it adds a college football flavor to it.  You see the little brown jug exchanged each season between the University of Michigan and University of Minnesota on the gridiron.  Oklahoma and Texas' "Red River Rivalry" has a golden cowboy hat trophy exchanged. 

I'm sure there are other such games at the high school level, but the more prominent one in our area is the Spirit Sword.


Pius X and Southwest at 4:30pm and Ashland-Greenwood/Lincoln Lutheran at 7pm on Friday will be streamed through the main website feed.  The mobile feed will have the Kearney/North Star game.

Playoff brackets will be posted a week from Saturday.
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