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Underdog Lynx look to shock Yerington

Just last week at UFC 193, the world got a reminder that the underdog should never be taken for granted.

Ronda Rousey learned it the hard way, taking a colossal kick to the side of the head in the second round that resulted in a knockout and her first career loss at the hands of Holly Holm.

Lincoln County (11-1) will have its Rousey-Holm fight Saturday, when it faces Yerington (11-0) at 4 p.m. in the Division III football state final at Reno High.

“It’s cliche, but it’s going to be a David vs. Goliath-type game,” said Lincoln County coach Rich Ottley, in his 16th season. “We’re also probably the smallest in size and they’re the biggest.”‘

Even so, the Lynx will be hoping to land that same power kick that sent Holm — a once 12-1 underdog — to bantamweight royalty.

“I just expect all of them to have a good game,” Ottley said. “We’re going to have to have a team win. … They’re just tough, gritty kids. Every game we go into, we’re small. We’re always undersized, but they have a lot of heart. People are amazed when they see us walk onto the field and then see the other team.”

Playing the role of underdog will be nothing new for Lincoln County.

The Lynx surprised many this season by grabbing their first league championship since 2008 and winning consecutive playoff games against The Meadows and Pershing County.

“The team just really grew as the season went along,” Ottley said. “We started with a loss against White Pine, but we really bounced back and grew up as a team. It’s been incredible to see the kids develop.”

Lincoln County won nine consecutive games since that 26-22 loss to the Bobcats on Sept. 11.

Yerington, the two-time defending Division III state champions, will be the Lynx’s toughest opponent this season, however. The Lions rolled through their schedule by averaging 44.4 points a game.

They also beat Truckee and Spring Creek — two Division I-A teams — and have one of the division’s top players in Reese Neville, who scored five touchdowns in last season’s 45-14 win over The Meadows in the state final.

“You just have to win one game. Just that one game,” Ottley said. “For us, tackling will be really important and throwing the ball with efficiency. We rely on the ground game, but we need to stay balanced. I think it’ll come down to our passing.”

Quarterback McClain O’Connor, the reigning Division III Southern League Offensive Player of the Year, should have no problem with that. The senior has completed 68 of 106 passes for 804 yards and 12 touchdowns this season and also has rushed for 414 yards and six scores.

“He’s just a really complete athlete,” Ottley said. “He’s fast, strong and he’s got a good arm. The big thing is, is his competitiveness. He plays to win and he’s gritty.”

Grit is something Ottley often refers to when talking about his team.

Whether it’s Will Culverwell, Derek Mathews, O’Connor, Landon Smith, Cody Thornock or Mike Wood, Ottley says everyone on the team has it.

And it’s a big reason why the Lynx have a chance for their first state championship since 2005.

“We’ve accomplished a lot this year,” Ottley said. “We exceeded expectations and surprised a lot of people. It just shows what heart and grit will do for you. …

“They’re just excited for the opportunity. And they’re excited to be there.”

Contact reporter Ashton Ferguson at aferguson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0430. Follow him on Twitter: @af_ferguson.

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