2018 was the year of the linebacker in Nebraska high school football, and Lincoln East was right there among the leaders with twin brothers Braden and Barrett Sellon manning the inside spots.
The Sellons graduated last spring, Braden being an all-stater and Barrett an all-city selection as seniors. So how do the Spartans replace a pair of 6-foot-3, 225-pound linebackers?
How about with a 6-4, 215-pound one with similar speed and a knack for being in the right place at the right time to make a play.
Junior Quinton Adams had a team-high 10 tackles in his first start as a Spartan, helping East to a 23-0 win at Lincoln Pius X on Friday night in the season opener. And things are only just getting started for the potential star, according to East coach John Gingery.
“He’s not getting recruited by anyone because no one’s seen him play,” Gingery said of Adams, who has 4.8 speed in the 40-yard dash, bench presses 240 pounds and squats 410. “Once they see him, the offers are going to come.”
Adams got on the field last season on special teams and used his sophomore year to be an understudy behind the Sellons, an experience that’s paying dividends this fall.
“They taught me the importance of getting in the weight room to get bigger and stronger so you’re always playing downhill and to play with intensity all the time, never taking a down off,” said Adams, a three-sport athlete for the Spartans who plays basketball in the winter and runs track in the spring.
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East brought back just three starters from one of the top defensive units in the state last season, but all of them were linemen — GeGe Crayton (6-0, 275, sophomore), Cooper Colon (6-0, 225, senior) and Trevor Jeffrey (6-0, 305, senior). Add to that group 6-5, 245-pound senior defensive end Jett Janssen, who had eight tackles last week, and the Spartans are stout up front.
They made Adams’ job much easier by controlling things at the point of attack. The East line combined for 24 stops in the Pius X contest.
“Those guys (on the line) command a lot of attention and I was able to get in there untouched a number of times to make a tackle,” Adams said. “They set it all up for the rest of us.”
Adams is a fullback on offense, and his blocking helped the East ground game pick up 215 yards against the Thunderbolts. His father, Malcolm Junior High/High School principal Greg Adams, was a quarterback at South Dakota State from 1987 through 1990, but Quinton decided to go a different direction in his football career.
“My dad tried for a long time to make me a quarterback, but I’ve always wanted to play defense,” Quinton Adams said. “I like the physical part of football. That’s what is fun.”
East’s Friday afternoon contest (4:30 p.m.) at Seacrest Field against Lincoln Northeast is the second of four straight games against city opponents to open the season. The Spartans take on Southwest and Class A No. 6 Southeast the next two weeks, respectively.
“We like how the schedule sets up,” Adams said. “You don’t want to lose to anyone in the city, so it’s forcing us to work hard in practice and to really focus on our next game.”