Scoring just what Henderson does

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Lincoln’s star running back, just a junior, doesn’t celebrate TDs — he’ll be back

To hear David Henderson tell it, breaking a long touchdown run is actually far less exciting than it looks from the sideline.

It sounds more like turning the corner and running into the dentist’s office or bowling someone over so he can clean up around the house.

“[When I get into the open] I just think ‘Touchdown’ and then I want to get there and get it over with as fast as possible,” said Henderson, Lincoln High School’s explosive junior running back. “Celebrating or doing something crazy means it’s the only time a person expects to be there. And I know I’ll be back.”

Now that is something everyone can probably agree on.

Since becoming academically eligible five games into his sophomore season, Henderson has run for 1,475 yards and 19 touchdowns in nine games, with 624 yards and seven of the scores coming in just three contests this year.

Henderson and the Mustangs will be in the spotlight tonight at 7:30, opening their Academic Athletic Association schedule against Balboa at Kezar Stadium in a rematch of last year’s Turkey Bowl, which Lincoln won 21-20.

In his 2006 debut, the 5-foot-11, 175-pounder rushed for 279 yards and four touchdowns on just 19 carries in a 41-21 win at Gunn. Midway through Henderson’s final carry of the night, a 49-yard score in which he started up the middle, hesitated at the line, broke a tackle, headed outside and sprinted down the left sideline to pay dirt, Lincoln coach Phil Ferrigno began cackling in disbelief.

“What can you say?” Ferrigno said after the game. “He just goes.”

A month removed from the game, Ferrigno still has trouble putting the performance into words.

“He was on fire that night,” Ferrigno said. “And it’s all natural ability. There’s no coaching in it. And the next week, he ran for more than 200 yards, but didn’t really run all that well. How ridiculous is that?”

Ferrigno and the Lincoln coaches are forced to walk a fine line with their star. They draw up plays to take advantage of his superlative skills, but his speed and ability to freelance sometimes means breaking away from blocking schemes, which can result in the instant gratification of a long touchdown.

But the most explosive Mustang is trying to harness his own freewheeling ways.

“Last year, I’d sometimes go my own way and just be looking for touchdowns,” Henderson said. “Now, I’m after those 5-yard runs, following my linemen. And they’re doing a great job.”

And the players up front have noticed a difference in Henderson.

“It’s been a big change, he’s way more focused this year,” Lincoln lineman Greg Foote said. “And when he goes for one of those long ones, it’s hard to describe it in words. He works as hard as we do and to see him break one … it’s an amazing team feeling.”

While Henderson remains focused on the task at hand, he also harbors hopes of playing at the next level. The native of the Bayview District has his grades in order and has dreams of exploring a new part of the country.

And not as a bit player.

“I want to be a Heisman Trophy winner,” Henderson said with a smile. “Freshman year.”

Ferrigno is sometimes left in awe with what Henderson can do on the field, but concedes he is still “a work in progress.”

“Physically, there’s not much he can’t do, but he’s still maturing,” Ferrigno said. “I love him like a son and he’s focused on graduating high school and getting into the best situation possible.”

melliser@examiner.com

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