Lincoln has had plenty of great athletes through the years

Lincoln’s trophy case may not be as full as other schools, but it’s still produced many great athletes.

Ritchie Owens (center) had a productive career in the NFL, registering 28.5 sacks. PHOTO: RITCHIE OWENS

If it were in another section of the city, Abraham Lincoln High School might be looked at a little differently.

But because the Railsplitters are almost always stuck in conferences with Public League powerhouses Northeast, Frankford and George Washington, many Lincoln teams find it hard to consistently compete in the Public League.

It also doesn’t help that on Thanksgiving, Lincoln’s football team almost always gets bested by Judge, which is traditionally one of the better teams in the Catholic League.

Lincoln might not have a full trophy case like the other schools in the area, but a quick peek at this list, which is made up of the top male athletes at the school from 1987 to 2017, shows the school has produced plenty of quality athletes.

The Railsplitters’ top athletes over the past 30 years have mostly been in football, where you need more than one or two players to put together a memorable season.

This year, Lincoln found success on the hardwood. It won the Public League Class 6A championship and won a game in the state tournament, but the squad was led by a host of talented players instead of one stud.

Before we begin, let’s set the rules. Players are judged by what they did while wearing the black and gold, and what they did upon leaving high school, be it in college or the professional ranks.

Every school has more than 10 great athletes, so names will be left off the list. It’s not a slight, it’s just a numbers game. Feel free to share your thoughts on the Northeast Times Facebook page or via email.

And once again, these lists wouldn’t be possible without help from www.tedsilary.com, the high school sports website.

1. Ritchie Owens

This 1990 graduate was a good player at Lincoln, but when he got to college he really blossomed. The defensive end attended Lehigh University and became a top defensive lineman, which got him noticed by NFL scouts. Owens was selected in the fifth round of the 1995 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins.

Owens flourished in the NFL, seeing time in 97 games and notching 151 tackles and 28.5 sacks.

His best year was his sophomore campaign, when he registered 11 sacks while forcing four fumbles.

He also played for the Miami Dolphins and the Kansas City Chiefs.

2. Keita Crespina

Lincoln has had many great seasons, but its best was probably the 1988 season and a lot had to do with this speedy receiver. The Railsplitters won the Public League A Division and advanced to the semifinals. In two playoff games, one win and one loss, Crespina combined to score five touchdowns.

Crespina was just as successful once he left Lincoln. He played football at Temple, and saw time as a true freshman. While he was a stellar offensive weapon in high school, he moved to defensive back and picked off four passes during his days as an Owl.

After a tryout with the Eagles, he went on to star in the Arena Football League. He played for three teams over seven seasons, and finished his career with the Philadelphia Soul. For his career, he caught 42 passes for seven touchdowns, and was one of the top cornerbacks in the league during his career.

3. Charlie Peoples

If Crespina was the lightning during the 1988 season, his classmate was the thunder. The talented tailback rushed for more than 3,000 yard during his high school career, and twice made the All-Public team. As a junior, he rushed for 1,100 yards and followed that up with a 1,400-yard season as a senior. For his efforts, he made the All-City squad.

He also found the end zone a lot. During his senior year, he scored an average of 14 points per game, which puts him 20th all time in football scoring.

Peoples went on to enjoy a solid career at Kutztown after his high school career was over.

4. Mike Glitz

This 1987 graduate had a hand in a historic season on the Railsplitters’ basketball team, and he really came into his own when he graduated from the school.

During his senior year, the starting center helped Lincoln make the playoffs for the first time in 22 seasons. The Railsplitters lost the game, but he pulled down 16 rebounds in the game.

After he left Lincoln, Glitz went to Holy Family, where he became one of the best players in school history. He scored 2,657 points and pulled down 2,067 rebounds in his career there.

He was a three-time NAIA All-American, and as a senior, he pulled down nearly 19 rebounds a game, which was three boards more than his closest competition.

After college, Glitz played professionally in Germany.

5. Ron Clarkson

This 2001 graduate didn’t let a little adversity get in the way of a great baseball season. After inadvertently using an ineligible player during the regular season, Lincoln forfeited seven victories. The player was later reinstated after proper documents were produced, but the forfeits weren’t erased, and because of this, the Railsplitters had a tough road in the playoffs. They also had Clarkson, who earned three consecutive victories, including a second-round win over previously unbeaten Washington.

Lincoln fell in the Public League finals, but it certainly wasn’t Clarkson’s fault. He hurled a gem with seven strikeouts and allowed just two hits, but an unearned run proved to be the difference and Central won the title 1–0.

Clarkson continued his baseball career at Temple.

6. Joe DiGrazio

This 2005 graduate has done a lot for Lincoln. Now he’s starring as a fiery assistant coach for the Railsplitters, and when he played, he was the heart and soul of the team.

DiGrazio wasn’t a huge stat guy, but he was in the middle of everything. A hard-hitting linebacker on defense, DiGrazio made his mark offensively as a bruising fullback.

As a senior, DiGrazio guided Lincoln to a 7–5 record. It came two points away from shocking Father Judge on Thanksgiving.

DiGrazio attended Vermillion, where he was nominated as a Juco All-American honorable mention. He finished his career at Shippensburg.

7. Charles Whittington

This classmate of DiGrazio was a talented football player who made history in wrestling.

During his football days, Whittington helped Lincoln go 7–5.

He started as a junior, when he rushed for nearly 500 yards, and followed that up by going for nearly 200 yards as a primary lead blocker.

Whittington made plays as a football star, but he shocked the world in the winter when he advanced to the state wrestling tournament at heavyweight. He lost both of his matches, but that was after he became the first wrestler in school history to make the prestigious tournament in Hershey.

8. Keith Michalak

It’s hard to say which sport this 1991 grad was best at because he was really good at two.

As a defensive end, Michalak twice earned All-Public and as a senior he made the All-City team.

He was just as good at baseball, where he twice made All-Public as a hard-hitting first baseman and pitcher, and twice he made the All-City team.

During his junior year, Michalak was a key reason for the Railsplitters’ run to the championship game. He picked up wins at pitcher in the first round and the semifinals, and had a key hit in a quarterfinal victory. The Railsplitters fell to Washington in the championship game, but not before Michalak belted a home run in the loss.

9. Otis Young

This two-way starter created a lot of havoc for Lincoln opponents before he graduated in 2004. He started at linebacker and on the offensive line, and excelled at both positions, which is why he was both an All-Public selection and an All-City pick.

Young impressed enough to get a scholarship to New Hampshire, and later transferred to Grambling, where he caught the eye of the Arena Football League, where he played one season.

10. Rob Freiling

During the early part of this century, the Railsplitters had great soccer teams and Freiling, who graduated in 2004, was a big reason for that.

The All-Public goalie stood tall, especially in the championship game during his senior season when the Railsplitters defeated Central 3–0. It was the second year in a row Lincoln won the Public League crown. They also won it during Freiling’s freshman year.

After excelling in high school, Freiling went on to play at Widener. ••

Joe Mason can be reached at jmason@bsmphilly.com