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Mission, Lincoln high schools look to make history in Turkey Bowl

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Niamey Harris, above, leads the Mission Bears into the Turkey Bowl today. (Dan Chambers/Special to S.F. Examiner)

This year’s San Francisco Section title game on Thanksgiving Day will feature a school looking to make history against one that knows a thing or two about setting records.

The championship tilt — called the Turkey Bowl around these parts — has Mission (8-4) seeking its third-straight city title, but the Bears will face a stern test against Lincoln (7-5), which racked up four consecutive trophies last decade.

A win for Mission would mark the first three-peat in school history and bring it closer to matching Lincoln’s record for the most consecutive Turkey Bowl triumphs (a feat the Mustangs share with the now-defunct Polytechnic High School).

Mission coach Greg Hill said his team appreciates the magnitude of the game, but isn’t losing focus of the little things.

“It would be great for these seniors to make history for Mission,” said Hill, who is in his first season as the head coach for the Bears. “But we’re sticking to our regular script. We call it the six P’s: Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.”

Hill probably doesn’t have to worry too much about subpar performances, thanks to his senior quarterback Niamey Harris, the defending league player of the year. Harris, a dual-threat talent who is entertaining offers from several Division I schools, atoned for a poor effort the week before by orchestrating a sublime offensive attack against Galileo in the sectional semifinals. Harris accounted for four total touchdowns, leading the Bears to a dominant 49-26 win last Thursday.

Lincoln coach Phil Ferrigno, who has been with the Mustangs for the past 15 years and has coached some of the best players in recent league history, said Harris ranks among the finest he’s seen.

“He’s almost impossible to stop,” said Ferrigno. “He’s so athletic and so quick — trying to contain him is a really tough task.”

Ferrigno, whose squad lost to the Bears 19-9 in the regular season, said his team should be considered a severe underdog against the two-time defending champs. That should be taken with a grain of salt, however. It would be unwise to bet against a Ferrigno-led squad, as the quotable coach has racked up nine Turkey Bowl appearances and five championships during his tenure at the school.

Like Mission, Lincoln boasts a formidable two-way threat at quarterback, with senior Roel Marania (the latest in a long line of Maranias to play QB for Ferrigno) accounting for more than 1,700 yards on the ground and through the air this season. Marania has also accumulated 21 total touchdowns on the year. He’ll be handing off to junior running back Josiah Calvo-Martinez, who powered for 148 yards rushing and two touchdowns in the Mustangs 41-15 defeat of Balboa in last week’s semifinal game.

Ferrigno thinks the game will be decided by the big men, with the team that controls the line of scrimmage ultimately coming out victorious. His squad will be bolstered on that front by captain Ronald Phelps, a six-foot, 285-pound senior who lines up at both offensive guard and defensive tackle.

While conventional wisdom would go with Ferrigno’s assessment of the defensive and offensive line battles, this game could actually come down to what happens on the exterior. Mission has a fleet of lightning-quick, athletic skill players, including wide receivers Tyrese Johnson and Floyd Barrow, and running back Joseph Broussard, who ran for 150 yards and two TD’s last week against Galileo. If Lincoln cannot control those players on the perimeter, it may not matter who wins the battle in the trenches.

Mission wants to claim a piece of history. Lincoln will look to restore its familiar role atop the league. It should all make for a great Turkey Bowl game.

“You can’t beat this environment,” said Ferrigno. “You’re going to have two teams really battling it out there. We know they’re going to come out ready, and we have to match that intensity.”

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