Monday’s Class 4A football playoff game between Dowling Catholic and Des Moines Lincoln may be the biggest game in the history of the Railsplitters’ gridiron program. At least, in the post-season history of Lincoln football.
Prior to Wednesday’s night’s opening round playoff game with DM East, the Rails had never won a playoff game.
They took care of the Scarlets for the second time in six days, 52-14 to avenge that hurdle.
Some of this story line may be personal for Coach Tom Mihalovich. The Dowling alum also coached in the Catholic Youth Football League. So for him, it is personal.
But it also is a coming of age for this program.
The Rails have won 9 straight since a 48-13 Week 0 loss to Southeast Polk. Since that game on August 19th, the Rails have made changes. Many key players are in different positions and there’s been a notable subtraction from this team. When KeeVon Bernstine was kicked off the team for misconduct, he was the team’s leading rusher at the time of his dismissal.
This Lincoln team leads Class 4A in rushing with 4,381 yards on 494 attempts, both tops. The closest team in rushing yards in City High with 3,137 and almost 12-hundred yard difference. The Rails also are tops in 4A for rushing TDs with 61. They also lead in total offense with 4,849 yards, just 206 yards ahead of pass-happy Marshalltown and with touchdowns and 70.
Their passing attack is 3rd worst in 4A for yardage with 468 on 25-56 passing. Only Davenport West (0-9) and their 428 yards and Mason City’s (2-7) 340, have fewer yards.
The Maroons are 378-2245 in rushing, 15th best in the class.
Kippie Ward, already a featured back in the offense, started to get more carries. He’s now the team’s leading rusher with 1,358 yards on 124 attempts, 17 touchdowns. That pencils out to be 11 yards per carry.
Rashid March has more carries, 135, but an even 1,000 yards and 9 touchdowns. Both he and Ward are extremely talented and able to break big runs, or put on big hits.
Jordan Cheatem has seen more action as well, racking up 503 yards on 44 carries. Jake Goble gets a few snaps as well with 33 carries worth 221 yards.
QB Michael Downing missed that Week 0 clash with Southeast Polk due to family reasons. Ward ran the offense that week, but Downing continues to develop in Coach’s eyes. Downing has put the ball in the air 48 times for 24 completions and 446 yards, 8 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Downing’s running stats are 37 carries for 36 yards, but four scores.
The offense is a Wing T approach, with some Flex Bone and similar Georgia Tech influence. This is also an offense that can put up some points on the board including every win over 39 points. the biggest tally was an 86-28 victory over DM North. The Rails scored 70 on Hoover, 61 on East and 60 on Sioux City East. They even scored 13 in the loss against SEP, the Maroons only scored 9 points in their loss.
The defense will line up 5-3, but also have to drop off the line one player to cover the Maroon spread attack.
Trevon Young started the year as a wide receiver, then DE and now linebacker. Coach calls him a Spiderman-type who can make great plays wherever he’s at on the field. He’s got 52 tackles on the season. He’s the anchor of the Lincoln defense and coach calls him a “truly special player.”
DE Trey Alessio leads the Rails in tackles with 59 and is the Steady-Eddy of the squad.
Kippie Ward started the corner back, but now is at linebacker where he’s made 39 tackles. That switch happened mid-season.
There are two sophomores on this side of the ball that start. Jordan Brysona 5’10”, 165 pounder and now Tony Drayton (5’11″, 275 lbs.) at nose tackle following the ejection of the regular starter.
The KWKY pregame show begins at 6p on 1150 or KWKY.com. We hope you tune in our radio broadcast. The winner of this game plays the winner of Valley and Urbandale Friday night.