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Zebra stampede

Former players enjoying Lincoln’s undefeated season
By: Russ Edmondson The News Messenger
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Former members of the Lincoln High football program are taking great joy in the success of this year’s team. The Zebras are 9-0 entering Friday’s 7:30 p.m. game at Colfax High, which is the final Pioneer Valley League contest of the season. The playoffs begin Nov. 20. Bert Salinas grew up in Lincoln and played linebacker for the Zebras from 1986 to 1989. He was also an assistant coach for Lincoln from 1996 to 1998 and the head varsity coach from 1999 to 2003. “They (the current Lincoln coaches) are all my good friends,” said Salinas, now the head varsity coach at Woodland High. “(Some of them) were on my staff and some of my former players (are coaches). We played them in Week 1 and they got us (19-7) and they have great size and are playing with a lot of heart and desire.” Salinas was the coach of the 2000 Lincoln team, the only team to win a playoff game in school history. “I was born and raised there and grew up with Lincoln football my whole life,” said Salinas, saying this might be the best Lincoln football team ever. “In 2000, when we beat Hilmar, that was a pretty darn good team too. It depends on how the playoff run works out . . . Their size (on the line) is probably the biggest that I can ever recall in a lot of years. It’s probably even bigger than the 1983 team that had the same sized line as the 49ers.” Salinas is enjoying the success of the Zebras this year. Lincoln has already clinched a league title. “It would be a great victory to beat Colfax, finish 10-0 while winning the PVL, an outstanding league,” Salinas said. Former Lincoln Mayor Primo Santini played quarterback at Lincoln from 1967 to 1970. The Zebras went 8-1 during his senior season and won the Pioneer League championship. “It always means a lot to the community to have a successful football team . . . and I have been really impressed that it sounds like the players on that 1-9 team last year have dedicated themselves and discovered the fact that if you focus and work hard you can turn it around,” Santini said. “And it sounds like they are a really close team. Those are two of the things that I took away from my team (in 1970). Our freshmen team went 0-9 and then we went 8-1 (as seniors). It’s still rewarding and a lot of us on that team are still very close to each other.” Santini added that this is one of the best teams that Lincoln has ever had. “You have to say that,” he said. “They have a chance to do something that no other team has ever done. Go undefeated through non league and league and win a league championship.” Greg Benzel played running back at Lincoln before graduating in 1986 but his squads didn’t reach the playoffs. “I have a lot of good memories and there are a lot of great people at Lincoln. Good times,” said Benzel, the varsity head coach at Rocklin High. “It’s always great to hear that Lincoln is doing well. Any time your alma mater is doing well, it’s a great feeling to see those guys have success and this year it’s a double dose. We (Rocklin) are having success and they are having success (both teams undefeated). 2009 is a great year. And I wish them the very best in the playoffs and I’m looking forward to seeing how well they do.” Tony Ramirez, who graduated from Lincoln in 2008, is a sophomore football player for Menlo College in Atherton. He plays on the defensive line. Ramirez watched the Zebras beat visiting El Dorado 42-7 on Oct. 16. Menlo had a bye that week. “It’s pretty exciting to see how far they will go this year and I will be able to watch more games if they (advance in the playoffs),” said Ramirez, as Menlo plays its final game of the season on Saturday. Ramirez is not surprised about the success of the Zebras and head coach Ken Lowe. Lowe was the co-head coach when Ramirez played for Lincoln. The seniors for this year’s Zebras were sophomores when Ramirez was a senior. “(Lowe) is a great guy and a great coach and very helpful on everything,” Ramirez said. “It seemed like this would be a good group to begin with and it seemed like they would click pretty well and have good teamwork.”