In Play with Tom Markowski

Lincoln Park stuns Wyandotte, program takes a big leap forward and is relevant once more

Football   | Tom Markowski

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Lincoln Park – Jamie Grignon came back to Lincoln Park two years with the intentions of bringing the Railsplitters back to being the competitive football team they once were.

Lincoln Park ended the state’s longest losing streak (66 games) that season and two short years later the Railsplitters have surpassed many ardent Lincoln Park supporters expectations.

Defeating Taylor Kennedy in 2013 was more of a relief for Grignon, his players and the program than anything else. But Kennedy, like Lincoln Park then, was at the bottom of the Downriver League standings. When Pierre Williams scored on a 19-yard run with 1:01 remaining on Friday the Railsplitters regained the lead and were within a few plays pulling off the biggest upset in league history.

Lincoln Park held on and defeated Wyandotte Roosevelt, 18-15, to move in a tie for second place at 3-1.

Wyandotte (3-1) is the class of the league. The Bears are the only team in the league to reach a state semifinal. Since 2009 when the league formed Wyandotte has either shared the league title or won it outright four times. Lincoln Park hadn’t defeated Wyandotte since 2005 and in the last three meetings the Railsplitters didn’t score.

“It was a step in the right direction,” Grignon said.

An understatement for sure but it’s an example of Grignon’s temperament. Seconds after making that statement he brought up his team’s next game this Friday at Melvindale (2-2). Grignon understands that if his team doesn’t play well this week they will likely lose. And if Lincoln Park stumbles in the final five games of the regular season some might say last Friday’s win was a fluke.

The week before Lincoln Park went to Trenton (4-0) and lost 33-14. Grignon said that game was the worst game his team played, mentally, this season.

“Every time we pulled to within a touchdown they came right back and scored,” he said. “We learned from that. I told the boys, you can’t catch your breath. We’ve got Wyandotte next.”

Lincoln Park opened the game with an 11½-minute drive and took a 6-0 lead.

Wyandotte then took a 7-6 lead and led 15-12 when Lincoln Park took possession on its 19-yard line late in the game. Quarterback Steve Glenn threw a 26-yard to Devon Carson to help set up Williams’ touchdown.

Remarkable, yes, but even more so when one considers Grignon returned just three starters from a team that finished 3-6. Glenn is one. Two-way back Trevor Anderson is another and Kalini Kapiko, who started at defensive tackle but was moved to center, is the third.

Grignon coached Lincoln Park in the late 1990s before going to a couple of other programs as an assistant. Because of Lincoln Park’s record recently, and the obscurity assistant coaches dwell, many outside of the Downriver area aren’t aware of Grignon’s ability as a coach. But the coaches with experience in Metro Detroit know of Grignon’s talents.

“We watched film (of the Wyandotte game),” he said. “And we made a ton of mistakes. We beat Woodhaven in the opener and then went to double overtime to beat Taylor Truman (0-4). We had a letdown. Truman played well. They had no turnovers and no penalties.

“The ups and downs are as much a lack of varsity experience as anything. Four games in, that’s gone by the wayside. We have experience now.

“Our offensive line, except for Kalini, was on the JV last year. We have new linebackers. We have a new defensive line. It’s a good win, yes. We were down twice to Wyandotte and maybe in other years we would have lost that game.”

But Lincoln Park did win and if Grignon can lead his team to a few more victories the students that left Lincoln Park in the past to play for other programs just might stay put.