Twelve months ago, Lincoln Christian experienced all of the emotions involved with losing a playoff game. Weeks and months of practice were remembered as the final seconds ticked off in a 69-34 loss to eventual champion Heritage Hall in the Class 3A semifinals.
“I told them to embrace how this feels,” remembered head coach Jerry Ricke. “Use it as fuel and motivation to get ready to play this year. It carried over into our off-season weightlifting program. It carried over into our summer conditioning program. We didn’t really talk about it after that, but in the back of their minds they knew what they had to do to make themselves a championship-level team.”
Fast forward 52 weeks and #2 Lincoln Christian once again found themselves matched up against top-ranked Heritage Hall in the semifinals. This time, the Bulldogs raced out to a 20-0 first quarter lead and never looked back en route to a convincing 33-6 victory and a berth in the 3A title game.
“It was a great victory for our team,” said Ricke. “Our kids played with great effort. To beat a program of the stature of Heritage Hall, especially in the playoffs, it’s a big victory for your team and your school.”
It’s the first championship game appearance for Lincoln Christian since 2015, when they suffered another loss to Heritage Hall. The Bulldogs claimed their first-ever state title in 2009 when Ricke was on the coaching staff as an assistant. He’s hoping to enjoy the moment more this time around than he did his previous two trips to the title game.
“The one thing I remember as an assistant is to embrace the whole week,” remarked Ricke. “One thing I probably didn’t do enough of before was to just enjoy the whole week. I want them to enjoy it, but be focused and go out Saturday and do what they’ve done all year.”
The Bulldogs are led by Ricke’s son, Chase, a three-year starter at quarterback who has thrown for 3,258 yards this season and 49 touchdowns. He’s completed an eye-popping 75 percent of his passes and thrown just two interceptions.
“Chase has done a great job, just as a leader on this football team,” commented the proud father. “He understands our game plans, he takes care of the football, and does a good job of giving the rest of the kids confidence.”
Lincoln Christian leads Class 3A in scoring offense, averaging more than 50 points per game, thanks to the exploits of Ricke and running back Josh Kaste (1,450 yards and 25 TDs) and receivers Connor Johnson (1,204 receiving yards and 22 TDs) and Kolbe Katsis (973 yards and 10 TDs).
It’s the Bulldogs’ defense, however, that has elevated the team to a championship level. Johnson, Daymon Lovelle, Zac Harwell and Austin Lovelle were singled out by Coach Ricke as top performers on that side of the ball. They’ve held opponents to less than 12 points per game.
“A lot of people know us for our offense and scoring points, but our defense has probably been the key to a lot of these games. The defense has played so well. They’re kind of the underrated portion of our team, but we know we would not be where we are without them.”
The Bulldogs (13-0) square off against #3 Plainview (11-1) this Saturday in Edmond for the Class 3A title. It has all the makings of a great championship showdown.
“Plainview is a great program,” said Ricke. “They make deep playoff runs every year and they have some very talented players. They’re playing at a high level and playing with a lot of confidence. Their special teams are outstanding. It’s going to take another really good effort by our team. We expect a really good game and look forward to the opportunity to play them.”