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The truth in black & white: The Zebras aren’t my team Friday
lincoln high zebras
The small Lincoln High gym in Lincoln that is the home of the Fighting Zebras.

My sister believes I’m a “traitor”.

She’s kidding, of course. Mary is adamant about one thing though: Lincoln High is going to beat Manteca High when Friday night rolls around in the Sac-Joaquin football playoffs.

That’s Lincoln High of Lincoln in Placer County. No, it wasn’t named after Abraham Lincoln. It was founded in 1859. Lincoln was named after the surveyor for the Central Pacific Railroad, Charles Lincoln Wilson.

My sister happens to be the activities director as well as a history teacher at Lincoln High. She is a third generation Lincoln High graduate as our grandparents and parents graduated from there. Her son and daughter are also Lincoln High graduates. Mary was student body president as were both of my brothers. Lincoln High hired her to teach after graduating from Chico State. You can’t get any more Lincoln High than that.

Did I mention that she bleeds blue and gold and is a Zebra?

If you think that is a unique high school mascot, consider the mascot of the newest and second high school to open in Western Placer Unified School District — Twelve Bridges High. Their mascot is the Raging Rhinos. The students rejected two other mascot names — the Mustangs and Rams. They said they didn’t want their mascot named after a vehicle. Go figure.

You can only imagine the fun times in Lincoln. Think back 50 years plus when Manteca opened its second high school, East Union Hugh.

And for the record, apparently I’m the albino Zebra (think black sheep) of the family. I was the only one of my siblings not to get elected student body president. Instead I got elected to the Western Placer Unified School District Board nine months after graduating high school.

I’d be remiss to mention I’m the only one of my siblings to move out of Placer County.

So who is my allegiance to? That’s easy. Manteca High. East Union High. Sierra High. Ripon High. Lathrop High. Ripon Christian High.

That’s because they are where I chose to call home. And if you don’t think where your home is qualifies as a special place you need to rethink your priorities.

Don’t get me wrong. Lincoln is a great place but it’s not home anymore. My home is Manteca and my community is South San Joaquin County.

Growing up in Lincoln back when the city from 1960 to 1975 had a population that was consistently between 3,100 and 3,200 football — just like basketball — was “the thing”. Think Friday Night Lights and Indiana basketball rolled up into one.

Thanks to how McBean Park — a baseball stadium built for the semi-pro Potters back in the 1950s when the football field was across the outfield and was situated in a far corner of Lincoln — the prevailing winds were such you could hear the crowd noise and the play-by-play announcers’ voice all over town during Friday night home games.

Lincoln High now has a much more hospitable playing field that is within viewing distance of the clay pits and the Gladding, McBean & Co. factory that now-a-days turns out clay roof tile and clay sewer pipe. The factory is still going strong after 145 years.

Football tradition is not quite as deep in Lincoln as in Manteca. The Buffaloes beat the Zebras by a good 20 years or so as Lincoln fielded its first football team in the early 1940s.

They did not have their first winning season until 1966 when they beat them arch-rival Del Oro High for the Pioneer League championship. It was a rivalry that matched Tracy-Manteca and then Oakdale-Manteca in terms of intensity.

Lincoln didn’t get its first championship until 1970 and then their second one in 1972. They did it after the school decided they wanted a championship so bad they imported two back-to-back coaches from Texas.

Without going into details, both had short stays in Lincoln. When you take a winning at all cost approach as many do in Texas it did not go over too well even in what was then a conservative  small farming/factory town in California at the heart of a school district with 196 square miles covered with  cattle and turkey ranches, rice fields, dairies, and small family orchards in the foothills.

To give you a feel for Lincoln back in 1971 when I was a freshman a football player for into trouble for bringing a gun to school. He had gone pheasant hunting with friends before school and left his hunting rifle on the gun rack in his pickup truck parked in the student parking lot.

No, they did not call the police nor did the school go into lockdown. Principal Bob Elkus called the football player to his office, told him to retrieve his shotgun from the truck and turn it into the office where he could pick it up after football practice. He was warned not to bring a shotgun to school again or else he’d face possible suspension.

It clearly was a different time in 1971.

Lincoln has changed. It is about to surpass 50,000 residents which was where Manteca was approaching when I moved here 31 years ago.

Lincoln, just like Manteca, is home to a Del Webb community. Lincoln tops Manteca in that category as Sun City Lincoln Hills is the largest Del Webb in California with nearly 3,500 homes. That compares to Del Webb at Woodbridge with 1,406 homes.

I did not play football for the Zebras, although my two brothers did.

However, I was the team student trainer for both football and basketball — think taping stinky ankles etc. — and kept the scorebook my sophomore, junior, and senior years.

Midway through my sophomore year I became the sports editor at the weekly News Messenger for 15 cents and inch and a dollar a photo. You know what they say: Jack Of all trades, master of none.

It used to stun me how people couldn’t wait to read about the game played on Friday night — Saturday afternoon if it was at Truckee, Colfax, of North Lake Tahoe — in the following Thursday’s edition. Everyone already knew the score. For years the News Messenger had an average 105 percent market penetration meaning a paper was sold for more than every household in the circulation area. Granted a chunk of those were out-of-town subscriptions. More than a few though were Wednesday night sales when stacks of papers for sale were delivered to three grocery stores an hour before closing time.

Many buyers couldn’t wait for the afternoon mail delivery. And while they wanted to see what was in “the weekly squeak” regarding sports sooner than later, many of the sales were driven by people would couldn’t wait a day to see who landed traffic fines in the weekly listing from the Lincoln Justice Court.

I’ve easily covered nearly 500 high school and community college football games between my years at the News Messenger, the every one of the 18 years at The Press-Tribune including a three-year stint as sports editor and the first 15 years of my 31 years so far at the Bulletin.

In high school the jocks called me “Scoop”. Given how everyone already knew the results it was kind of a misnomer.

Lincoln High, by the way, was nicknamed the Zebras by fans in the 1920s poking fun at blue and gold stripped jerseys — think modern soccer uniforms — then basketball coach-principal Richard Lee ordered for the team.

As for Manteca High, not only is my office a block away from the campus but I live two blocks away in Powers Tract.

There are times when I make a quick trip home during the evening — when I’m working on the paper — I can hear the band, the play by play, and the roar of the crowd at Guss Schmiedt Field  from my home,

It reminds me a lot of growing up in Lincoln.

As much as I’d like to make my sister happy, I have two final words to say, “go Buffs”.


This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at