Growing up in a football family, Lincoln senior quarterback Roel Marania said things could get rough between him and his two brothers.
“There were definitely some tackle football games on the concrete,” said Marania, whose brother Ronnie quarterbacked Lincoln to three city championships last decade, and whose other sibling, Rocky, is a sophomore on the current squad. “Once we got to high school, we kind of dialed it down a bit.”
That toned-down approach should put Mustang fans at ease, as Marania will be leading a team attempting to make history this weekend. Traditionally, The City’s public school teams have ended their season with the Turkey Bowl, the annual San Francisco Section title game held on Thanksgiving Day.
Starting last year, however, the winner of the contest has moved on to the state’s playoff race. As a result of their 22-12 triumph over Mission, Lincoln will face Amador High School of Sutter Creek on Saturday, with the winner advancing for placement in one of Northern California’s Championship Bowl games.
“The Turkey Bowl might have been the game we were looking at all year, but we’re still hyped and excited for this one,” said Marania, a three-year starter at quarterback for Lincoln. “We know we have a chance to do something special.”
It’s fitting that a Marania is leading the Mustangs into unknown territory. While his brother Ronnie was directing Lincoln to their historic Turkey Bowl run, Roel and Rocky were acting as ball boys, absorbing the intricacies of the game as youngsters. It seemed inevitable that they would keep the family tradition alive by playing at Lincoln.
“Roel has been around this program for almost as long as I have,” said coach Phil Ferrigno, who has won six Turkey Bowl titles over his 15 years as coach for the school. “He and his brother would come to summer camps, hang around the football team. They’ve been Mustangs for life, basically.”
After acting primarily as a caretaker quarterback during his sophomore year, Marania enjoyed a breakout junior season, throwing for 1,240 yards and 18 touchdowns while leading Lincoln to a 7-4 record.
Following the departure of standout running back Jacquez Williams-Chish, Marania was asked to take on a different role this year, relying more on his legs and less on his arm. The results were a little uneven at first, as Lincoln stumbled out to an 0-4 start.
“There were some plays where I would feel selfish if I kept the ball myself,” said Marania. “But coach kept telling me that if we’re going to be successful, it’s going to be you running the ball.”
Once league play rolled around, Marania found his stride, rushing for 979 yards and 13 touchdowns, while tossing for 860 yards and nine TDs on the season. In the Turkey Bowl, Marania racked up 100 yards rushing, including a decisive 13-yard touchdown scamper that put the game away late in the fourth quarter.
“He might have pressed himself a little too much early in the season,” said Ferrigno. “But he’s always been a great leader, and he really turned things around. He showed what he could do in the Turkey Bowl.”
Ferrigno will need another sublime performance out of Marania when his squad faces Amador. Playing in the Mother Lode Conference, the Buffaloes logged a 12-1 record this season while outscoring opponents by an average of 33 points per game. They feature a stout defense and a fierce running attack, led by senior Daylan Thetford, who has amassed more than 1,400 yards on the ground this year.
“It’s going to be a challenge, no doubt,” said Ferrigno. “We’re going to have to control the ball, play smart and not make mistakes if we want a chance at winning.”
The game will be played at Lincoln, which was a nice surprise for Marania and the seven other Mustang seniors.
“We thought we all played our last home game,” said Marania. “It’s an amazing feeling to get one more game before our fans.”