Defense comes to forefront as Mustangs top Mission
The key number for the Lincoln football team Thursday was 22, not 24.
On a day when dazzling Mustangs running back David Henderson (No. 24 on the roster) finally made a few miscues, all 22 Lincoln starters came up big in a 19-6 Academic Athletic Association win over Mission at School of the Arts.
The Mustangs (4-1 overall, 2-0 AAA) took control in the second quarter, outscoring Mission 12-0. Phillipe Lewis’ 1-yard touchdown plunge with 58 seconds remaining in the quarter gave Lincoln a 19-6 halftime lead.
“People think Lincoln is just David Henderson,” Mustangs linebacker-tight end Michael Clayton said. “And we needed to let them know that there’s a whole team of good players here, and a real tough defense.”
Henderson still led all rushers with 156 yards on 14 carries (putting him over 1,000 yards for the season) and returned a first-quarter interception 96 yards for the game’s first score, but the junior fumbled four times (twice on punt returns), losing two of them, to slow the Mustangs’ attack.
Henderson was also forced out of the game for much of the second quarter after absorbing a hit to the head, but returned to play the entire second half.
The Lincoln defense was more than up for the challenge, however, holding Mission (0-2, 1-4) to minus-17 yards rushing and was constantly in the face of talented Bears quarterback Greg Tucker.
The Mustangs recorded seven sacks and limited Tucker to 107 yards on 8-of-25 passing.
“We really concentrated on trying to keep Tucker in the pocket,” Lewis said. “Containing the quarterback was the key.”
On perhaps the biggest possession of the game, the Mustangs’ defense dug in its heels after Mission, still trailing 19-6, recovered a muffed punt at the Lincoln 48 with 7:35 remaining in the fourth quarter. An animated Lewis got the huddle together and, after Mission advanced the ball to the 19, the Mustangs forced two incompletions, moved the Bears back to the 30 on an Eric Foote sack and then held on fourth down.
“We weren’t nervous, we like being under pressure,” said Clayton, who had two sacks and three other tackles for a loss. “We got in the huddle and got mad, andPhillipe, our captain, got us pumped.”
Lewis also played a huge role in the offense, rushing for 100 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.
Tucker answered Henderson’s first-quarter interception return with a 31-yard touchdown strike to receiver Harry Howard with 3:19 left in the first quarter to pull within
7-6. Lincoln answered back on Ronnie Marania’s 16-yard touchdown strike to Mike Paolucci with 5:41 remaining before halftime to take a 13-6 lead.
MISSION FORFEITS PAIR: Mission coach Carl Sullivan was suspended for the game for using an ineligible player. After the game, AAA commissioner Don Collins said the Bears would be forced to forfeit two of their nonleague wins.