Panthers set for historic season opener

Lincoln Prep linebacker D’Tavion Wright (6, pictured making a tackle in jamboree action last week against Glenbrook) and the Panthers will play for the first time ever on their home field as they host Madison starting at 7 p.m. today. (Photo by Tony Valentino)

By T. Scott Boatirght

Lincoln Preparatory School opens the 2023 football season at 7 p.m. today against Madison at Panther Field.

And when the game clock strikes the 11:59 mark of the opening stanza, history will already have been made.

That’s because that first second of the contest will mark the first play of the first game ever to be played on the new Lincoln Prep campus, which opened last spring.

The Panthers haven’t played a home game since the 2019 season, and that was on the campus of Grambling State University.

And that makes tonight’s game one that will be remembered forever in the minds of Lincoln Prep fans and supporters, as well as those of the old Grambling Laboratory High School, which was “closed” at the end of 2016 school year following a decades-long desegregation battle under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Justice. Lincoln Preparatory School had occupied the old Grambling Lab School building until the end of the 2020 school year, when the Department of Justice ruled it could no longer operate on the GSU campus.

And that forced the Panthers to become nomads, playing away from home for three seasons.

“This is bigger than big — this is history,” said Panthers head football coach Glen Hall. “Our coaches know that. Our players know that. Our students, parents and supporters know that. Every game is a big game. But there’s no denying this one is going to be special.

“And that’s why we need to get off to a good start. That’s why we need to be at our best to start off the season. Because it’s already a historic season. And we have to go into the game believing that.”

Lincoln Prep is coming off a 3-9 season in 2022 and fell 49-6 in a first-round playoff game.  Madison went 3-7 overall and 0-6 in district play last season, including a 14-6 loss to Lincoln Prep.

There will also be a little more history made on the sidelines, as Hall, a former coach for Grambling State, faces off against former G-Man and new Madison head coach Levi Washington Jr., who was a freshman receiver playing for Coach Eddie Robinson ‘s Tigers in 1997 with Hall coaching GSU defensive backs.

“We’ve always talked and I’ve kept up with his coaching career over the years,” Hall said. “It’s always fun getting to coach against someone you have a relationship with like that. He’s a good coach and has some athletes to work with.

“He’s got some tall, fast receivers and a dual threat quarterback that can run and throw,” Hall said. “So what we’re going to need to do is shorten the game with our rushing attack and play-action passing. We need to try and be smart and control the clock.”

That means Panthers fans should expect a healthy dose of junior running back Jaylin Brown along with some passing from quarterback Jordan Brown, a dual threat of his own.

Hall will be counting on the strength of his team — his defense — especially in a season opening with a lot of new faces at offensive skills positions. 

“That’s the strength of our team right now so we’re going to have to try and get after the football,” Hall said. “Madison didn’t do a lot of scoring last year, but with Levi back in charge over there, I expect they’ll do a better job of moving the ball and scoring this season.”

Washington, who played high school ball at McCall High School under his father/head coach, Levi Washington Sr., before that school changed its name to Madison and then served as head coach at the school from 2014-17.

“Coach Hall and I talk and yes, it’s going to be special getting to coach against him,” Washington said. 

Temporary bleachers are in place at the field for fans at tonight’s game, enough to seat 500 on the home side and 100 on the visitors, as Lincoln Prep awaits the arrival and construction of permanent bleachers toward the end of the season. 

Lawn chairs will also be allowed to be used by spectators.

“It’s going to be a big night, so we just need to start things off right,” Hall said. “It’s the start of a new era, and we need to start it with a win.”