Defense is backbone of Lincoln’s success

They tape it on the back of their helmets before each game, a credo the players on the Lincoln defense have learned to live by.

It’s “JYD,” short for “junkyard dogs,” and it is a mind-set the Mustangs players say has helped the unit mature into one of the stingiest defenses in the Academic Athletic Association this season.

“A dog that’s guarding a lot or a junkyard, if you try to come close to his fence he’s just ferocious and attacks and will do anything he can to keep you out,” Lincoln linebacker Jose Medina said. “And that’s how we feel if anyone comes near our end zone.”

Lincoln (9-2) may be associated primarily with the theatrics of charismatic junior running back David Henderson, who leads The City with 1,900 rush yards and 22 touchdowns this season.

But the play of its defense could determine the team’s fate in Thursday’s Turkey Bowl against Lowell (10-1), set for 11 a.m. at Kezar Stadium.

With a win, Lincoln would win back-to-back San Francisco Section championships for the first time in school history.

After allowing five touchdowns in a 38-32 league-opening win over Balboa, the Mustangs have permitted an average of just nine points in its last six games, including last week’s 29-8 semifinal win over the Buccaneers.

“The defense has really stepped up,” Lincoln coach Phil Ferrigno said. “I really feel like they’re peaking at the right time.”

Now, the Mustangs will face perhaps their most difficult test of the season. The last time Lowell and Lincoln played, the Cardinals controlled the ball for more than 39 minutes in a 14-13 win, handing the Mustangs their only league loss. Stopping Lowell’s double-wing offense, as mundane as it is effective, comes down to “heart and desire,” according to Lincoln coach Phil Ferrigno.

Middle linebacker Phillippe Lewis has provided those traits as Lincoln’s physical and emotional leader and also leads the team with 130 tackles.

“You just have to have that attitude like ‘I’m going to be a part of every tackle,’” Lewis said. “I want the team to be able to rely on me.”

Flanking Lewis are linebackers Medina and Michael Clayton, who have combined for 20 sacks (Clayton had 11) and will be responsible for outside containment against run-happy Lowell.

And doing the grunt work in the middle is defensive tackle David Garcia, who doesn’t get the glory but takes pride in occupying blockers and freeing up his linebackers to make plays.

“I’m just thinking about going out there Thursday and playing as hard as I can,” Garcia said. “And if the rest of the team follows suit, I think we’ll win.”

melliser@examiner.com

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