Phil Ferrigno didn’t have to think long when asked what got the offense going for his Lincoln football team in its San Francisco Section semifinal game against Balboa on Friday night.
“Well, No. 24 might have had something to do with it,” the Mustangs’ coach said. “He just gobbles up yards and sometimes you don’t even notice it.”
No. 24, of course, is David Henderson. And after sitting out the first quarter due to a coach’s decision and struggling for yards in the second, The City’s leading rusher put together another spectacular ground display after the intermission in second-seeded Lincoln’s 29-8 win over third-seeded Balboa at Kezar Stadium.
That sends Lincoln (9-2) back to next week’s Turkey Bowl, where the Mustangs will face top-seeded Lowell (10-1) in a bid to repeat as champion. Lowell won the Academic Athletic Association title based in its 14-13 win over the Mustangs.
Henderson ran for 183 of his 194 yards and scored all three of his touchdowns in the second half as Lincoln took control of a game that was tied 0-0 at halftime.
“Last time I embarrassed them and they’re a good team and I knew it wasn’t going to happen like that again,” said Henderson, who ran for a career-high 376 yards and five touchdowns in Lincoln’s 38-32 win over Balboa during the regular season. “I knew I’d have to stay in there, be a man and take some hits.”
Henderson opened the scoring with a 17-yard run with seven minutes remaining in the third quarter, capping off a drive that begin when he intercepted an Eric Lara pass at the Balboa 43-yard line.
Balboa (5-6) responded with an 11-play drive that took it to the Lincoln 30, but the Mustangs’ defense stiffened on a fourth-down play to turn the ball over on downs.
On the very next play, Henderson ran up the middle for a 70-yard touchdown to put Lincoln ahead 14-0.
And after the Buccaneers responded to that drive with a score of their own (coming on a Lara 16-yard pass to Paradise Vaovasa with 6:09 left in the game), Henderson answered with his 10-yard touchdown run with 1:39 left that essentially put the game on ice.
Kendrick Page had the final score of the night, returning a Balboa fumble 20 yards for a touchdown in the final moments. The Mustangs’ defense forced three turnovers and also stopped Balboa on a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line in the second quarter to keep the game scoreless.
“Balboa is a big-play offense and we were able to shut down those plays,” Lincoln fullback-linebacker Phillippe Lewis said.
That the injury-depleted Buccaneers were even able to force the late-game dramatics was impressive, considering Balboa was without injured wideouts Luther Gary and Edgar Wilson and lost leading rusher Soloman Webster early in the game to an ankle sprain.
“We fought as hard as we could,” Balboa coach Keith Minor said. “But there’s no woulda shoulda coulda in football.”
Lincoln 29, Balboa 8