Lincoln making history while forging a bright future with win over Franklin

Lincoln running back Andre Watkins breaks away for a touchdown against Frankin.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

For 44 years, since the Los Angeles Lincoln football team refused to come out of the locker room at halftime after trailing Wilson 63-0 and forfeited the City Section game, becoming a national news story on Nov. 4, 1977, the Tigers have been seeking to change the story line.

There have been plenty of wins over Wilson since and the full story about Lincoln forfeiting for safety reasons (lack of healthy players) was since revealed, but that game and the debate afterward never went away.

This season’s unbeaten Lincoln team has transformed the debate. For the first time since the City Section had a single division in 1974, Lincoln (9-0, 4-0) is on the verge of making the big boy playoffs following a 52-34 victory over Franklin on Friday night. has the Tigers ranked No. 5, which would put them competing against Wilmington Banning, San Pedro and Lake Balboa Birmingham in the Open Division.


The Tigers were a Division III team three years ago. And to show how unusual this season has been, fellow Northern League member Franklin has wins over long-time powers Crenshaw and Harbor City Narbonne.

On Friday night, in a game to decide the Northern League championship, Lincoln turned loose All-City running back Andre Watkins. The Tigers scored touchdowns on their first five possessions in a victory over Franklin (7-2, 3-1).

Watkins, a four-year starter, rushed for 173 yards in 12 carries and scored three touchdowns until limping off late in the first half after getting hit on the right knee. He returned in the third quarter to score his fourth touchdown to give Lincoln a 49-26 lead.

Franklin had its own offensive standout in junior receiver Hector Ceballos. He set a City Section record with 27 receptions in a game earlier this season, and the Panthers continued passing to him. He had 12 catches for 151 yards and two touchdowns in the first half.

Tyler Rosales returned an interception 20 yards for a touchdown. Jaden Rattay also had a first-half pick for the Tigers. Quarterback Ivan Plancarte had touchdown runs of 25 and 62 yards.

From the highest bleacher seat above Kenny Washington Stadium, you can see the downtown Los Angeles skyscrapers. Below is an old-fashioned grass field, dirt track and vintage goal posts that you can easily envision being used in the 1930s when Washington was scoring touchdowns for the Tigers.

Washington would go on to star at UCLA and be signed by the Rams in 1946 to break the color barrier in the NFL modern era. Representatives from the Rams were there Friday night to celebrate the 75-year anniversary of his signing.

For 11 years, a group of Lincoln alumni have been lobbying to overhaul the Tigers’ field.

At halftime, there was a celebration in that a stadium project is going to happen. It will include an all-weather field and synthetic track. The City Council, thanks to a push from Councilman Gil Cedillo, has contributed $2 million. The Los Angeles Unified School District, with support from Board of Education member Monica Garcia, has provided matching funds of $2 million.