It was all over now, the domination complete, and Lincoln football coach Phil Ferrigno was walking to the locker room to celebrate with his team when he saw running backs David Henderson and Eric Beverly still slapping hands with fans in the bleachers.
And as Ferrigno turned to half-heartedly give them a hard time 15 minutes after the Mustangs’ 49-28 win over Lowell, all Henderson could do was smile.
“Coach,” he said. “We’ve got everything under control.”
Henderson took charge the moment he got his hands on the ball and never let go in a marquee Academic Athletic Association game Friday, racing for a 58-yard score on his first carry and an 84-yard touchdown on his second try. The senior finished with 287 yards and three scores on 17 rushes as the host Mustangs (6-3, 5-0) clinched the top seed in the San Francisco Section playoffs. Henderson also caught a27-yard touchdown pass.
With the win, the two-time defending Turkey Bowl champion Mustangs earned at least a share of their first AAA regular-season title since 1987.
“I felt amazing, like I was 9 feet tall, bulletproof, walking through the jungle,” Henderson said, explaining the zone he was in. “Like I couldn’t be touched.”
Much was made before the game about the escalating rivalry between the two teams, highlighted by a debate over who is The City’s premier rusher — Henderson or Lowell senior Bismark Navarro. But it was all Henderson on Friday as he accelerated past Navarro (also a defensive back) down the sideline on each of his first-quarter scores and the Lincoln defense held the Cardinals’ star to 91 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries (including just 5 yards after intermission).
“That was pretty amazing,” Ferrigno said. “I don’t think there’s a doubt about who the best team or who the best player is now.”
Things actually looked to be going Lowell’s way early as it recovered an onside kick to open the game and put together a eight-play drive that Navarro capped with a 2-yard touchdown run. The Cardinals (6-1, 5-1) then pounced on another short kick, but Lincoln stopped them on downs. Henderson ran for a score on the second play of that possession, the beginning of a stretch that would see the Mustangs score 35 of the game’s next 42 points. Lincoln quarterback Ronnie Marania (4-of-5, 49 yards) contributed two touchdown passes in that span, including a backbreaking 27-yard score to Henderson with just 10.1 seconds remaining in the first half that gave Lincoln a 28-14 lead.
Vieje Piauwasdy led Lowell with 199 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries as the Cardinals amassed 425 yards on the ground. But the Lincoln defense held when it had to, keeping Lowell out of the end zone on five successive drives in the second and third quarters.
“We haven’t had our butts kicked like that in a while,” Cardinals coach Danny Chan said. “We looked human today. We’ve got to focus on coming back and being machines.”