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Lincoln running back plays with heavy heart

Kyle Powell led Lincoln to a win over George Washington in the school’s first home playoff game since 1979 — a week after his cousin was killed.

Kyle Powell led Lincoln to a win over George Washington in the school’s first home playoff game since 1979. SUPPLIED PHOTO

Emotions were running high and tears were flowing.

Right after the Abraham Lincoln High School football team downed George Washington 20–14 in the first round of the Public League playoffs, the Railsplitter community was enjoying a huge celebration.

It was the team’s first home playoff game since 1979 and was just the second playoff win for the Railsplitters since 1987 (they won their first two years ago).

Coaches, fans, players and students were gathered around the end zone near the school to celebrate, and like most of his teammates, Kyle Powell was quite emotional.

But unlike his teammates, he had more than football on his mind. He was playing with a heavy heart and when the game finished, the emotions came pouring out.

“I had to walk away for a second and I started getting emotional because my cousin was shot and killed last week,” Powell said about his cousin, Hassan Noaks, who was killed in Darby on Oct. 19. “He was my cousin, but he’s like a brother to me. He always looked out for me, and we spent a lot of time together.

“He would tell me I was corny to make me play better. He was a football player growing up, but then he stopped playing to take care of some things. It was so hard playing out here today.”

Noaks did his part on both offense at running back and defense at linebacker in helping the Railsplitters knock off the Eagles. Luis Nazario scored two touchdowns for Lincoln, which got a 60-yard kickoff return from Joel Pagan to open the second half. The score gave the Railsplitters the lead. It was also the final score of the game.

Powell, who did mostly grunt work during the game, was proud of the team’s effort and happy he was able to honor his cousin and in the process move on in the playoffs. Lincoln will face host Northeast on Friday night. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

“It was good to have football this week, I tried to use it to keep busy and stay occupied,” Noaks said. “It was good to be around my teammates because they helped me a lot. They kept helping me. They’re like my brothers. They really helped me get through this week.”

Powell has been a key player for the Railsplitters on both offense and defense. Last year, Sammy Karr got the bulk of the work for Lincoln at running back, but this year Lincoln goes by a committee approach.

It’s working.

Lincoln improved to 7–2 with the win, and next week, the Railsplitters will attempt to advance to the Public League Class AAAAAA finals.

“We’re playing pretty good,” Powell said. “Today was a big win. We beat Washington earlier in the year, and they’re good. We knew it was going to be hard.”

Lincoln jumped out to a 12–0 lead early in the game before the Eagles scored the final 14 points of the half to take the lead at intermission.

But Pagan’s touchdown to start the second half proved to be the difference.

“It was a great game, they’re a good team,” said Lincoln coach Ed McGettigan. “This was fun because we were playing here. We had a good turnout, and the kids played hard. It’s always good to win a playoff game.”

While McGettigan was celebrating, Washington coach Steve “Kyle” Benzio was busy rallying his troops. Two years ago, the Eagles failed to win a game. Last year, they were improved, and this year, they fell just short of winning their division and advancing in the playoffs.

“I’m not surprised at all,” Benzio said. “These guys have earned it. They worked from the start. The seniors on this team really led the way. Now it will be up to the younger guys and the new guys to keep it moving in the right direction.”

Powell just hopes to keep moving on so he can continue his football career for as long as possible. When it ends, the honor student will likely go back to lacrosse. While Lincoln doesn’t have a team, he’ll plans on playing for Frankford.

“I like lacrosse a lot,” Powell said. “My coach told me that playing lacrosse will help with football because it helps with conditioning. It helps with a lot of things. Lacrosse isn’t my top sport, but I like it and it has helped me with football.”

After Lincoln, Powell hopes to continue his football career in college, potentially at Temple University. He also knows what he wants to study.

“I want to become a personal trainer,” Powell said. “I like to work out and exercise. I love sports. It’s something I’m pretty good at, and I think it’s a good job. And I would love to play at Temple, but I’m still (figuring it out).”

No matter where he ends up, he’ll always remember the bittersweet football game where he honored his cousin.

“I think he’d be proud,” Powell said. “This week was so hard. I miss him a lot. He was a great person and someone I’m really close to.

“Playing today was hard. I thought about him a lot, but I tried to keep my focus on the game. This whole week was tough. I’m happy we were able to win, not just for ourselves, but for him. I think he’d be proud.” ••

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