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Lincoln quarterback KJ Chatham tries to shake Carlsbad defenders during the CIF San Diego Section Open Division Championship game on Nov. 18 at Snapdragon Stadium. Photo by Steve Puterski
Lincoln quarterback KJ Chatham tries to shake Carlsbad defenders during the CIF San Diego Section Open Division Championship game on Nov. 18 at Snapdragon Stadium. Photo by Steve Puterski
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Lincoln rallies from behind to edge Carlsbad in CIF title game

SAN DIEGO — After trailing most of the night, Lincoln High launched a late-game rally en route to a 28-24 victory over Carlsbad in the CIF San Diego Section Open Division championship game on Nov. 18 at Snapdragon Stadium.

The Lancers led 21-6 early in the fourth quarter, but a 25-yard touchdown pass from Hornets quarterback K.J. Chatham to Josiah Cox on fourth down sparked a furious 22-point rally for Lincoln.

The Hornets then hit on touchdown passes of 80 and 62 yards to cap the rally despite a valiant effort from the Carlsbad defense to bottle up Lincoln running back Roderick Robinson, who committed to Georgia earlier this year.

“It came down to those plays,” said Carlsbad head coach Thadd MacNeal. “We really couldn’t do much on offense in the fourth quarter. Give them credit. They made plays to win the game.”

Carlsbad, making its third consecutive Open Division title game appearance, opened the game with a 73-yard touchdown run from Mason Walsh on the first play of the game. Lincoln responded with a touchdown to cut the lead to 7-6 in the second quarter.

After trailing 21-6 at the fourth quarter, Lincoln rallied back to win the CIF San Diego Section Open Division Championship on Nov. 8 at Snapdragon Stadium. Photo by Steve Puterski
After trailing 21-6 at the fourth quarter, Lincoln rallied back to defeat Carlsbad and claim the CIF San Diego Section Open Division Championship on Nov. 18 at Snapdragon Stadium. Photo by Steve Puterski

Walsh and the Lancers responded as the junior outran the Hornets defense to the left side for his second touchdown of the game to give Carlsbad a 14-6 lead.

Meanwhile, the Lancers’ defense was keyed-in on Robinson, the seventh-ranked running back by Rivals, from breaking loose and controlling the game. For the most part, Carlsbad didn’t allow Robinson to get in rhythm, which added to the Hornets’ offensive woes in the first half.

Carlsbad appeared to take control in the third quarter when cornerback Justin Johnson picked off Chatham and returned the interception 53 yards for a touchdown and a 21-6 lead with 11:46 left in the game.

“They did such a great job on Rod-Rob. I know he’s hurt, but still did a really great job,” MacNeal said of corralling arguably the state’s best running back. “Our pass defense is really solid, but they hit two big ones and it’s tough.”

But on fourth down, Chatham connected with Cox for a touchdown to spark Lincoln’s rally. The Lancers, carried by the legs of Walsh, responded with a field goal.

Walsh burst down the left sideline for 68 yards and Carlsbad had first-and-goal from the 4. Lancers quarterback Julian Sayin took the snap and ran for three yards, but a false start forced Carlsbad to kick a 31-yard field goal with 6:13 left in the game.

On Lincoln’s next possession, Chatham hooked up with Mahki Gray for an 80-yard touchdown and on the Hornets’ next possession, Chatham hit Corey Thompson-Miller, who spun out of a tackle and raced 62 yards for the game-winning score with under 4 minutes left in the game.

Lincoln (11-1, 4-0 Western League) advances to the CIF state tournament. Carlsbad finished its season 10-2 and 6-0 in the Avocado League.

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