Linking with Lincoln

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Rookie head coach Lincoln Townsend will go for his first win Saturday. Photo by Tina Garceau

Lincoln Townsend has tallied tons of lessons in his 49 years on this earth, but none will top the knowledge that hard work and determination will take one far in life. Already revered as the head track and field coach at Ss. Neumann-Goretti High School, 1736 S. 10th St., he is looking for a second successful means to encourage responsibility and respect for oneself as the site’s varsity football leader.

“This team is going to be a competitive club that always fights,” the enthused overseer said from his East Passyunk Crossing-situated place of employment. “I want to create an identity of playing fast and physical football while also stressing that their sacrifices matter now and will matter even more later.”

The Collingdale inhabitant and his charges will head to Wildwood Saturday for a clash with Columbia High School. In seeking their initial triumph, they will look to move on from Aug. 27’s season-opening setback to Del-Val, with Townsend understandably eager to see what they retain from the 32–6 loss.

“Just like with my track and field coaching, I see everything as a learning process,” he stated. “We’re going to get better each time we take the field. I can guarantee that.”

The Delaware County dweller is already highly familiar with the gridiron group, having served as an assistant coach. Losing out on the main position last season, he came into this campaign enthused about molding the roster members, only four of whom are seniors. Commenting that when an assistant he saw football as less stressful than track and field because of the enormity of his role in the latter, he noted that though he now finds himself with two major titles, he is keeping an even keel because he knows that increased maturity levels count for far more than notches in the win column.

“Some people probably don’t believe that about me because of the track and field success we enjoy here,” Townsend said of helming the commended Catholic, City, and Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association forces. “Process over the product, though, is what I’m about. If victories come, great, but if you don’t realize all your dreams through sports, you’ll be able to apply your wisdom to achieve something else.”

THANKS TO PARENTS Lincoln Sr. and Cecilia, the West Philly product took to music as a youth, becoming a multi-instrumentalist and a gospel choir presence, the latter coming when he joined an adult group at 12. Track became an important element of his adolescence, with his sophomore year transfer to Overbrook High School quickly compelling him to consider it an obsession.

“There was already a strong history at that school by the time I arrived, so I put pressure on myself because I didn’t want to be the one to mess it up,” Townsend said. “It all came pretty easily to me because I was so scared to lose. I wanted to give it my all, and I knew everyone around me meant business.”

He attained All-American status at the secondary education institution and helped his alma mater to become the 1984 indoor state champions. With California calling, he matriculated at Taft Junior College, again earning All-American acclaim for track and football, too. His burgeoning skillset even helped him to qualify for the 400-meter dash Olympic Trials and yielded 15 All-American designations at Lincoln University.

“I felt this constant push to give to whatever I was doing,” Townsend said. “I never struggled to know where to put my heart.”

That amazing sense of direction led him to play football for the Philadelphia Storm and the New Jersey Rage, and although pigskin proved appealing, his family’s relocation to Collingdale set him on his more notable present course.

“It was all about having opportunity and making progressive steps with us, so that’s how my wife (Jonette) and I started the (Delco) Stallions in 2003,” he said. “Since then, coaching, which had not been a goal of mine, has become a huge part of my identity.”

The Townsends became members of the Neumann-Goretti family in 2012, with son Todd transferring from West Catholic Preparatory High School. His success has found a stellar successor through sister Sydni, who has crushed the competition in two years as a Saint.

“We love being a part of this community,” the proud patriarch, whose other daughter, Brittney, teaches biology at Neumann-Goretti, beamed. “The administration is wonderful, and the opportunities to grow are outstanding. With this new challenge for me, I know the support will only get stronger.”

The Saints are looking to rebound from a tough 2015 that found them go 2–9, including an 0–4 slate in Catholic League AA action. That came a year removed from their amazing 9–5 run in which they won the school’s first parochial championship since 1954 and added the AA city title by beating Prep Charter, 1928 Point Breeze Ave.

“I’m a realist, so I’m not going to go out there and say we’re going to win every game, but the fight will be there on every play,” the coach said. “There’s no such thing as a rebuilding year when you’re confident that you can make noise each time you have a game scheduled.”

The Saints, who compete at the South Philadelphia super site, 10th and Bigler streets, will make their home debut Sept. 17 versus Germantown Academy. The following week, their Catholic League competition begins with a trip to Bishop McDevitt. The end of the season, as usual, will feature a Thanksgiving Day matchup with South Philadelphia High School, 2101 S. Broad St., but no matter the foe, each Saint and Townsend will be ready to go.

“We’re not going to be short on commitment,” he said. “We’re going to be as fresh in November as we are today.” SPR

Contact Staff Writer Joseph Myers at jmyers@southphillyreview.com.