Vincennes Lincoln seeks to overcome SIAC’s difficulties

VINCENNES, Ind. – There’s been plenty of success for Vincennes Lincoln in coach Levi Salters’ first three seasons at the helm of his alma mater.

The Alices, still in the Big Eight Conference at the time, went 25-10 in that span averaging nearly 34 points per game and won their first division championship in 13 years in 2019.

But then the Big Eight disbanded at the end of that school year. They moved to the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference and went just 7-16 the past two seasons.

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Vincennes was used to being in the hunt for Big Eight titles until the realignment reshaped Southwest Indiana’s football scene from three conferences to two. The Alices remain convinced they can make a difference, but they have a new perspective now that they’re competing against bigger schools.

They finished with four wins in 2020, then three last season despite reaching their section championship game after winning just once in the SIAC.

The Alices are aiming for at least five wins this fall.

“If you get anything above that, you know you’re going to have a really good team that hopefully will do well in the tournament,” Salters said. “That’s kind of our goal. It will be great to win the conference, but our goal is to play our best football at the end of the season and then have success in the tournament.”

Reitz's Roland Vera (9) intercepts a pass as the Reitz Panthers take on the Vincennes Lincoln Alices at the Reitz Bowl in Evansville, Indiana on Friday night August 27, 2021.

“We have a lot of plays this year,” added junior quarterback Xander Hunt. “And throughout the offseason this summer, we’ve had a few scrimmages and I think we’re looking good. We’re definitely a team to watch.”

Their offense has slowed to around 15 points per game since switching conferences, and that includes three shutouts last year. Hunt, however, will be a key part of the Alices now that he is healthy again.

He played the corner for the first three games of last season and was inserted at quarterback against Central in Week 4. Then he broke his collarbone in the third quarter. Vincennes had to scramble to find a replacement under the center. The Alices eventually returned to their original starter, Colten Pfoff, before Zach Steffey took over later in the season.

Vincennes Lincoln quarterback Xander Hunt in action.

“Zach did a good job as a backup (at quarterback last season),” Hunt said.

Steffey, now a senior, will primarily play corner and solid safety while Hunt is expected to be back in the starting quarterback role. He will also continue his punting duties alongside sophomore Luke Lindsey, who will be used in traditional fourth down style. But if the Alices want to be unconventional and keep their defenses on edge, Hunt will more than likely line up.

“I would say I’m definitely back 100%,” Hunt said. “I feel good for this year.”

Another big boost for Vincennes is having senior running back Jackson Johnson in the backfield again. Johnson tore his ACL before the start of last season and was expected to be the Alices starter. Elijah Hovland was the next man and finished with 907 yards as a second-team All-SIAC.

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“We’re thrilled to see Jackson back on the court after missing an entire season,” Salters said. “I’m sure he is too. He’s a tough boy.”

Fellow senior Dejuan Gillis will return as a slot receiver and solid safety. While playing mostly defense last season and being the Alices’ second main tackle, Salters is looking for him to add more on offense. Gillis had 206 scrimmage yards and one rushing touchdown last year.

“He was always the kid who made the hard-hitting plays,” Salters said of Gillis. “He’s a very good athlete. He can shake things up once he has the ball.”

Vincennes has established depth after taking a few pieces over the past two years. With a more veteran presence, it’s a good place to step up and compete in the SIAC.

Courier & Press sports reporter Treasure Washington can be reached by email, [email protected], and on Twitter @Twashington490.

Dejuan Gillis (11) of Vincennes Lincoln takes the ball on the sidelines as the Harrison Warriors take on the Vincennes Lincoln Alices at Romain Stadium in Evansville, Ind. on Friday night September 24, 2021.

Vincennes Lincoln Alices

Last year: 3-9 (1-8 Southern Indiana Athletic Conference)

The Head Coach: Levi Salters (32-26 in 6th grade at school)

Key players to watch

Tanner Gilbert (RB, Sr.), Dejuan Gillis (WR/DB/KR, Sr.), Xander Hunt (QB/P, Jr.), Jackson Johnson (RB, Sr.), Zach Steffey (QB/DB, Sr. .)

The three greatest games of the Alices

August 19 in Bosse: Vincennes passed just 156 yards offensively against the Bulldogs last year and lost 16-14 at home. Prior to the loss, the Alices had won four of their previous five encounters against Bosse.

September 9 at Central: It was the only SIAC opponent the Alices defeated last season and given that it also marks the game in which Hunt broke his collarbone, he’s already motivated to see if his team can take down the Bears again. .

September 23 vs. Harrison: Recent meetings between these two teams have not been particularly close, but it is a de facto rubber game. The Warriors won by 26 last year while the Alices won by 18 in 2020. They hadn’t played before since the 1970s.

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