LINCOLN (4-3) vs. BRANDON VALLEY (5-2)
WHEN/WHERE: 8 p.m. Friday at Howard Wood Field
COACHES: Lincoln — Aaron Beavers (13th year with Patriots; 133-55); Brandon Valley — Chad Garrow (10th year; 85-32)
SEASON TO DATE: Lincoln looks to win two in a row for the first time since opening the season. The Patriots racked up over 600 yards of offense against winless Rapid City Central, but gave up their share of points last week in the 62-39 win. Before that, Lincoln lost a shootout to Mitchell, 42-35, and shutout Aberdeen Central 28-0. Friday the Pats get their biggest ‘11AAA’ test since Roosevelt on Sept. 12. Brandon, meanwhile, enters with four straight wins including last week’s impressive upset of the top-ranked, undefeated Rough Riders.
GETTING DEFENSIVE: The Lynx surrendered a single score against Roosevelt, and even then the Riders needed a botched special teams play to set up a short field. The Patriots allowed nearly 40 points to a winless team. That would seem to indicate how far apart the teams are defensively. Lincoln, a team lacking experience to begin with, has fought injuries much of the season. Lee Ransom has been a steady playmaker, and Lincoln might need big plays from the senior wide receiver to stay in it Friday. Linebacker Andrew Sorensen leads the Lynx defense as a tackling machine and disruptor behind the line of scrimmage.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Brandon’s one-sided win last week came as a bit of a surprise given Roosevelt’s dominance this season. That’s health related, and as stated, Lincoln has been hit by that issue as much as anybody. Riding a big win the Lynx defense could take over, but the bigger question will be whether they can limit their own mistakes. Brandon had turnover issues in its two losses this season, against Washington and O’Gorman. No matter what, Lincoln will need an improved defensive effort to get the win. The Pats are just a few weeks removed from pitching a defensive shutout but have surrendered an average of 40-plus points in the past two games.