Abraham Lincoln’s defense was suffocating last Saturday, and senior Luis Rodriguez continued to make a strong case for being the city’s best all-around player as Lincoln returned to the semifinals.
The second-seeded Railsplitters led from start to finish and beat the No. 7 Red Devils 31–6 in the Public School Athletic League City Conference football quarterfinals in Coney Island on Nov. 22.
Lincoln’s stout defense didn’t allow the usually explosive Flushing to do much, and forced five turnovers on the afternoon. The Railsplitters beat Flushing 56–0 in last year’s semifinals.
“We knew Flushing scored a lot of points leading into this game,” said Lincoln coach Shawn O’Connor. “Our defense was able to give our offense good field position all day long, and our defensive line did a good job of pressuring the quarterback.”
Rodriguez provided more than enough offense for Lincoln (9–2), and was simply unstoppable all day. He tore apart the Flushing defense with four touchdowns — three on the ground and one receiving.
“He’s our go-to guy,” O’Connor said. “He has been the guy for us all year long.”
Rodriguez got the ball rolling on the game’s first drive as he caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Paul Litvak to give Lincoln (9–2) a 7–0 lead. Litvak returned to action after missing the prior three games with an injury.
“It’s fantastic having Paul back,” Rodriguez said. “He’s our starter and he played really smart football today.”
The defense then got involved on Flushing’s first drive as it forced and recovered a Red Devil fumble, but couldn’t capitalize on the turnover. On Flushing’s next possession, the Lincoln defense was able to force senior quarterback Terrence Chavis to cough up the ball at his own 15-yard line. This time Rodriguez was able to punch the ball in from two yards out and give the Railsplitters a 14–0 advantage.
Flushing’s offense seemed to be figuring things out in the second quarter as it drove down to Lincoln’s side of the 50-yard line, but the Railsplitters stout defense stopped Flushing in its tracks and forced a turnover on downs. Rodriguez set up his team for another score as he blew by the Flushing defense into its secondary for a 58-yard run. The drive resulted in a 35-yard field goal by junior Axel Pembele and a 17–0 lead heading into halftime.
The Red Devils (8–4) did attempt a comeback. Litvak was intercepted in the end zone and the ball was returned to the Lincoln one-yard line and eventually run in for a score to cut the Railsplitters’ lead to 17–6 in the third quarter.
Rodriguez followed up the Flushing score with a 65-yard rushing touchdown, giving Lincoln a 24–6 lead. He put the game away for Lincoln with a 14-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
The win sets up a semifinal matchup with Grand Street at noon on Nov. 29 in Coney Island. Lincoln narrowly beat the Wolves 21–18 in the regular season.
“We have to have a week of intense practice,” Rodriguez said. “We cannot take any days or plays off this week. They’re going to come in one game away from Yankee Stadium just like us. Everyone is going to put it all on the line and do what we have to do to come out victorious.”