Twenty-one freshmen and sophomore boys huddled together on the field wearing matching red shirts that read “Lincoln football” on the front and “We’re back” on the other side — a nod to why they were meeting that evening.
“Let’s break into position groups,” Lincoln High School football coach Aaron Hart said. “Running backs with coach Robinson, receivers with me and linemen with coach Talen.”
The boys looked confused. A few moved toward a coach, but the majority looked at one another as if waiting for the guy next to them to give an answer.
After a minute or two, Hart recognized the problem.
“Oh sorry. That’s my fault,” he said. “No worries. Let me find my list.”
Hart flipped through papers on his clipboard and read off players’ names and positions. “Banta-Green, linebacker. Joss, linebacker. Cowan, defense.”
Lincoln reopens this fall in Seattle. It shut down in 1981 because of declining enrollment. It will feature a student body made up of freshmen and sophomores with close to 40 percent participating in athletics.
At the first day of Lynx football practice, two weeks ago, the boys were learning the ins and outs of football: How not to reach for a handoff as a running back, how one should explode out of their three-point stance and how to take a water break without taking off one’s helmet.
Hart is taking on more than just introducing football to the majority of these boys. He’s helping to restart a community.
“It’s definitely exciting,” he said. “We’re taking this over. It’s brand new and everyone has a great attitude and just happy to be here. It’s fantastic.”
Over the past year, Hart, along with the school’s athletic director, Brent Brakke, have created a football program from scratch. From ordering new equipment and uniforms to finding places to practice and play games, and teams to play against, the Lynx are back.
“It’s an opportunity to redefine Lincoln and the opportunity to connect with the community,” Brakke said. “It’s really exciting to see their energy, and we’re hoping to translate that onto the field and on the court. The students get to define it. This is about their school and their opportunities to leave their mark.”
Lincoln will play a junior-varsity schedule this season to accommodate safety precautions as the team has a lack of upperclassmen and experienced players — a decision decided on by the school’s coaches, administration and the school district. It is the only fall sports team at Lincoln that will not play at a varsity level.
One of the games Hart scheduled was against Roosevelt High School — the school he came from along with a handful of sophomores.
“I’m excited to play the teams that we came from, like Roosevelt,” Lincoln sophomore and middle linebacker Lucas Joss said. “I like to see the enthusiasm from the new coaches to start the new program even though they’re coming from other schools.”
Hart was the linebackers and tight ends coach last season on the Roughriders coaching staff. When the position at Lincoln opened, he knew it was the right move.
“Honestly, I’d probably would have stayed at Roosevelt for a number of years,” he said. “But I live in Wallingford, lived here for almost 20 years, and just the sense of community, and I just thought, with me living here and knowing some of these kids and being able to connect with their families. … It was such a good fit, I had to go for it.”
Hart, also the offensive coordinator, shares the coaching with Hunter Talen (defensive coordinator), Nadrece Robinson (running backs and defensive line coach) and Jordan Eugenio (special teams coordinator) among others.
The coaches organize a half-mile warm-up run at the start of every practice from Lincoln’s campus to the Lower Woodland Fields. The school doesn’t have its own field, so outdoor fall sports, such as football and soccer, are using public parks and recreational facilities. The football team will host three football games this season which will be played at Memorial Stadium on Saturdays.
Thursday is the first day of football games in Washington, but Lincoln will open the season Sept. 14 at Roosevelt at 7 p.m. with 26 players on its roster. It will be the majority of the players’ first time playing football.
“I definitely want to leave my mark on it in a very positive way,” Hart said. “I’m just really excited about bringing it back to the Wallingford, Queen Anne area and doing it the right way and having something they’re proud of.”