Manitou's Sawyer Lincoln helps team score from midfield, stay loose with music

October 22, 2013 Updated: October 22, 2013 at 9:15 pm
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photo - Manitou Springs' Sawyer Lincoln moves the ball down field againt St. Mary's Tyler Sorensen during the first half Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013, at Manitou Springs High School. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
Manitou Springs' Sawyer Lincoln moves the ball down field againt St. Mary's Tyler Sorensen during the first half Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013, at Manitou Springs High School. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock) 

Sawyer Lincoln already has the bongos and the ukelele packed. And the team doesn't even leave until Friday.

A four-hour bus ride will take Manitou Springs to Coal Ridge - located just west of Glenwood Springs - for the Mustangs' first-round playoff game against No. 22 Sheridan.

Lincoln is hoping the musical instruments keep everyone's spirits up.

"You just want to keep the energy high," Lincoln said. "You don't want anybody to think about the game too much."

Lincoln has kept his team's energy plenty high this season, and it garnered the Mustangs (12-3) an 11 seed. Lincoln, the Manitou Springs all-time goal-scoring leader since midway through his sophomore season, has had to adapt to a new role. Unfortunately for opponents, it's a role in which he's flourished.

During his junior season, an ankle injury kept him out of at least seven games. The Mustangs stumbled to a 6-9 season and missed the playoffs. Playing as a striker, and Manitou's lead threat, Lincoln was the focus of plenty of hard tackles.

That led to coach Ben Mack's idea to somewhat hide his top player. So he moved Lincoln to center midfield, where he could roam, distribute and hopefully continue to score.

He's done all three. The Mustangs senior leads the team in goals (28) and assists (17), both personal bests in high school. More importantly, it's led to plenty of others scoring.

"Moving into that midfield position, I've seen him develop as player and us develop a team aspect," said co-captain Keegan Vernon, who is second on the team with 16 goals. "He used to rely on solely his scoring skills. Now he's putting the ball through to our wingers or me or Mitch (Patterson, seven goals) in the center."

The Mustangs tried the switch a little last season. This season, Mack has seen the wrinkles iron themselves out.

"It took some time to work out the kinks and things," Mack said. "But it's worked out just wonderful. It's so much harder for teams to mug him coming out of the back."

Sheridan will have work hard to stop Manitou Springs and Lincoln. It won't be able to take any breaks.

Meanwhile, the Mustangs are planning to break plenty during the four-hour bus ride west to stretch and stay loose. While they're inside the lumbering vehicle, the drum of bongos and strumming of ukelele will keep their energy level up for that first-round match. Not that they need it.

"I'll tell you what, this season has been the most fun season I've ever had playing soccer," Lincoln said. "It doesn't feel like a job at all, it feels like you're there because you love it."

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