It’s not Turkey Day just yet, but it might as well be.
The two best teams in the Academic Athletic Association will be on the same field Saturday at School of the Arts, and the gap between the Lincoln and Mission high school football teams and the rest of the league is significant.
Entering the game that will decide the regular-season league title and the top seed in the AAA playoffs, Lincoln and Mission are both undefeated, and have outscored league opponents by a combined margin of 288-78.
“We believe in the process to prepare for a game and we try not to make it a big deal, but you’d have to be in a closet not to know it’s a big game,” Lincoln coach Phil Ferrigno said.
The results have been the same, but the manner of the victories have been very different.
Lincoln has taken down opponents with a standout defense (allowing just over 11 points per game) and a dynamic triple-option attack. Deftly operated by senior quarterback Derek Morrell, running backs Demetrius Williams and Tyree Marzetta, as well as fullback Justus Smith, have thrived in the run-heavy system.
“He has been unbelievable,” Ferrigno said of Morrell. “He’s done a great job and when he has made mistakes, he’s corrected them.”
The four players have combined for 1,653 rushing yards and 25 touchdowns in six wins on the field (Lincoln has two forfeit wins over Marshall and Woodland Poly).
Lincoln may be the breakout team of the season (it is only two years removed from a winless year in 2010), but the breakout player is undoubtedly Mission senior quarterback Antoine Porter.
Porter, a quarterback on the Sacred Heart Cathedral freshman team before he transferred to Mission and a junior varsity quarterback for the Bears in his sophomore year, wasn’t even sure he wanted to play the position at the beginning of the season.
Porter’s apprehension toward the position made Mission coach Joe Albano look elsewhere for a quarterback, but he just couldn’t find one.
“In the beginning of the season, he didn’t want to play quarterback,” Albano said.
Porter has thrown for more than 1,200 yards — mostly to solid senior wide receivers Demitrius Thibeaux and Alex Tico — has run for more than 600 yards and has accounted for 29 touchdowns. Illustrating his overall athleticism, three of those touchdowns have been off returns on punts and kickoffs.
“That’s the million-dollar question,” Ferrigno said when asked what the Mustangs can do to corral Porter. “You just try to play your defense and you gotta make some plays. He’s such a dynamic kick returner and he’s playing quarterback. This is not news to any of us, because they’ve had some great athletes, but this is a special kid.”