Football: Lincoln can’t hold off Peluso and El Camino

El Camino senior running back DJ Peluso (left) blows past a Lincoln defender on Saturday at Lincoln High School. (Photo by Clarivel Fong)

El Camino senior running back DJ Peluso (left) blows past a Lincoln defender on Saturday at Lincoln High School. (Photo by Clarivel Fong)

By Mike Bebernes

Despite a number of mistakes by its opponent that kept the game close, Lincoln High School was unable to overcome the play of El Camino senior running back in the Mustangs’ 15-6 loss Saturday at Lincoln High School.

Peluso had 120 yard rushing on 20 carries, a receiving touchdown and a 40-yard interception return for a score, accounting for all of the Colts’ (2-1) scoring on the day.

“He’s our big-play guy,” said El Camino head coach Mark Turner. “He’s kind of our workhorse. He’s a big play waiting to happen,”

The Mustangs (0-3) were on their back foot early, as El Camino drove down to the Lincoln 1-yard line on their second possession of the game. Peluso, attempting to stretch over the goal line, had the ball knocked from his grasp and Lincoln recovered for a touchback.

Peluso made up for his mistake on the ensuing Lincoln possession. Playing both ways a defensive back, Peluso intercepted an errant throw by Lincoln backup quarterback Joshua Burnoski and returned it 40 yards for the game’s first points.

El Camino regained possession just four plays later, when Lincoln starting quarterback Derek Morrell fumbled a snap on the Lincoln 38-yard line. Peluso then reeled off a 33-yard run to bring the Mustangs into scoring position again.

Two plays later, however, El Camino running back Angelo Gourmenidis was stripped on his way into the end zone and the Mustangs recovered on the 1-yard line, holding firm in the red zone again. It was one of four turnovers by El Camino on the day.

The Lincoln offense came to life in the second quarter, when, after stopping El Camino at midfield, the Mustangs went on an 11-play, 42-yard drive that ended with senior running back Damon Bannang cruising untouched into the end zone on an 11-yard toss.

Lincoln's Damon Bannang rambles in for the Mustangs' only score against El Camino on Saturday at Lincoln High School. (Photo by Clarivel Fong)

Bannang had 71 of Lincoln’s total 98 rushing yard on the day. The Mustangs missed the extra point went into the half trailing 8-6.

The Colts seemed ready to pull away early in the second half when Peluso caught a pass out of the backfield and ran in a 10-yard touchdown to make the score 15-6.

The Lincoln offense was held in check for the remainder of the contest, though, as Morrell was limited to 105 yards with an interception on 17 passing attempts.

El Camino kept the game close by making mistakes, including a dropped touchdown pass, an interception and another turnover on a botched snap.

“We were looking to put them away in the second half,” Peluso said. “They’re a disciplined team and they stuck with us.”

Any chance of a Lincoln comeback faded when the Mustangs, needing two scores, turned the ball over on downs with 90 seconds remaining.

It was the 15th straight loss for Lincoln, but head coach Phil Ferrigno was optimistic after his team’s effort against the Colts, which beat defending Academic Athletic Association champion Washington 29-19 last week.

“We were in the game, we gave them one ball and gave up a touchdown on an interception,” he said. “We haven’t had a win in a while, but the guys are working hard. It’ll come.”

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