It’s a rivalry sparked by the inevitable struggle between the top dogs in a seven-team league, built on newspaper clippings and slights real and perceived and stoked by two charismatic and dominant lead characters.
And it should all make for delicious drama when the Lowell football team travels to Lincoln on Friday at 3 p.m. Both the Cardinals (6-0, 5-0 Academic Athletic Association) and Mustangs (5-3, 4-0) enter the game unbeaten in league play, with the winner likely earning the league’s regular-season title.
“It’s a big game and I think it’s kicked up and become quite a rivalry in the past couple of years,” Lincoln coach Phil Ferrigno said. “There’s definitely respect, but there’s no love lost between the two teams.”
The programs met twice in 2005 and 2006, with Lowell winning the regular-season matchup each time only to be bounced in the playoffs by the Mustangs. In last year’s Turkey Bowl, Lincoln came back from a 16-6 halftime deficit to defeat the Cardinals 29-22, a game spiced up by a bizarre incident following the second quarter in which the Lowell players briefly sprinted toward the Lincoln team on the way to the locker rooms.
“It was just one of those incidental things … that turned into something stupid,” Cardinals coach Danny Chan said. “I was kind of a little giddy out there myself and probably made a couple of bad decisions. But was that the difference? I think it’s more that their lines got going and [star Lincoln running back David] Henderson got going.”
That Chan referred to Henderson by name represents a change from earlier this season, in which he and other members of the program occasionally avoided using his name in both interviews and casual conversation.
“It’s just hoping people would kind of see our league not only through Dave Henderson, but through Bismark [Navarro, Lowell’s star running back] as well,” Chan said. “We’re aware of Henderson and know how fast and good he is, but he has a little mystique about him and we have to look at him as just another back we have to stop.”
This much is clear — Henderson and Navarro represent the league’s two most explosive players. Henderson has 1,438 yards and 20 touchdowns on 179 carries this season, while Navarro has 1,114 yards and 25 scores on 118 tries.
“They’re both big-time players,” Ferrigno said.
“Bismark’s a good guy, Dave Henderson’s a good guy and people should come out to Lincoln Friday to check these guys out,” Chan said. “We both have good defenses, young but good lines, and it’s going to be a big game.”