Football Preview: Lincoln has picked itself up from the pavement

Lincoln seniors (from left) Derek Morrell, William Jameson and Demetrius Williams could lead the Mustangs to a AAA title that is up for grabs. (Photo by Devin Chen)

By Jeremy Balan

Only two players from Lincoln High School’s 2010 football team will be on this year’s squad, but that season still bothers coach Phil Ferrigno.

The Mustangs’ 0-11 record in 2010 is one of the lowest points in the program’s history and it provided a wake-up call to the most decorated Academic Athletic Association football program of the 2000s.

A 4-7 record in 2011 and a first-round playoff exit doesn’t exactly have Lincoln supporters jumping for joy, but the Mustangs have officially picked themselves up from the pavement.

“It kind of re-energized me,” Ferrigno said of the 2010 season. “It showed last year, because we had kids buy in. We took a step in the right direction. Now we have to keep plugging along.”

Without a clear-cut AAA favorite this season, it won’t take long to find out if Lincoln will be a contender.

The Mustangs will begin the season with a non-league matchup against Riordan, where Ferrigno played and is a member of the school’s Hall of Fame.

Lincoln senior Demetrius Williams is the leading rusher returning to the Mustangs’ backfield, but will play several other key roles. (Photo by Devin Chen)

“It’s a good opener for us, because it’s a WCAL opponent and it will test whatever we have,” Ferrigno said. “It’s special. We might lose, we might win. I don’t know, but we’ll find out what we have.”

What they have, at first glance, is an athletic but small group (Ferrigno estimates they will have around 29 players on the varsity team), with a pair of solid quarterbacks.

Senior Derek Morrell and junior Joshua Burnoski are competing for the starting quarterback job, and both started at times last season.

Morrell started all three non-league games of the 2011 season, and also started as a sophomore, but was replaced by Burnoski once league play began. Burnoski, who is eight inches shorter than Morrell but more athletic (he also plays wide receiver), led the Mustangs to four league wins and a playoff spot.

Both will get time under center in the Mustangs’ scrimmage Friday with Sacred Heart Cathedral, but Ferrigno hasn’t tipped his hand as to who he’s leaning toward.

“We’re both working hard for the spot and whoever gets it, gets it,” Morrell said. “There’s no decision yet.”

In the backfield, time will be split between leading returning rusher Demetrius Williams, a senior, and junior Tyree Marzetta, a late-season junior varsity call-up last year.

But with new assistant coach Don Harris, who employed a spread offense at Galileo last season, the Mustangs will likely be throwing more than years past. Last season, Lincoln attempted just 115 total passes.

“We’ll be throwing the ball a lot this year and opening it up a little bit,” Morrell said. You gotta get everybody incorporated with it. It’s just football, you gotta adapt and play.”

Williams will also line up at wide receiver, defensive back and punt returner, a versatile role he relishes.

“Wherever they need me, I’ll play. Even if they need me on the line, I’ll play wherever they want,” Williams said. “I fit everywhere.”

Although the Mustangs’ defense had blips against Mission and Washington last season, it was one of the most underrated units in the AAA. Lincoln allowed just over 16 points per game in league play, including four games where they held opponents to eight points or less.

That may be the biggest hint that Lincoln is turning things around for good. During the Mustangs’ stretch of four straight AAA titles from 2005-2008, they allowed 12.4 points per game against league opponents.

“They’re starting to look like the teams we’ve had in the past and those were some talented teams,” Ferrigno said. “All those guys were great players, but there was a respect for everyone on the field, whether they were the stars or the last guy on the team.”

2012 Schedule – AAA games in bold

Week 0: Sat. 9/1 – vs. Riordan, 2 p.m.
Week 1: Sat. 9/8 – @ Hillsdale (San Mateo), 2 p.m.
Week 2: Sat. 9/15 – @ El Camino (South San Francisco), 2 p.m.
Week 3: (Bye)
Week 4: Fri. 9/28 – vs. Balboa @ Kezar Stadium, 7 p.m.
Week 5: Sat. 10/6 – vs. Washington, 2 p.m.
Week 6: Sat. 10/13 – vs. Galileo, 2 p.m.
Week 7: Fri. 10/19 – vs. Marshall @ SOTA, 3 p.m.

Week 8: Sat. 10/27 – vs. Woodland Poly, 2 p.m.
Week 9: Sat. 11/3 – vs. Mission @ SOTA, 2 p.m.
Week 10: Fri. 11/9 – @ Lowell, 2 p.m.

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