SAN FRANCISCO is almost a century old tradition in one of the most recognizable cities in the world.
Turkey Day, the high school football competition that determines the San Francisco sectional champion, kicked off for the 98th time Thursday as the Lincoln Mustangs celebrated a 44-7 victory over the Balboa Buccaneers.
Under bright, clear skies and temperatures close to 70 degrees, three sixes won the decisive win—two off senior defenseman Xavier Solares at 53 and 75 yards—and one in the last play of the game by Leonardo Sosa.
This sealed Lincoln’s 14th overall and third in four years.
Middle linebacker and defenseman Diego Cristerno also had an excellent game with 11 tackles and two 15-yard touchdowns.
It was also the ninth title under Lincoln coach Phil Ferrigno, making him the best championship coach in San Francisco history.
He broke the tie with Milt Axt, who led the now-defunct Polytechnic Institute to eight titles in the 1940s and 50s.
“That’s all of them,” Ferrigno said, pointing to his players and assistant coaches. “(The coaching staff) prepared them well and the kids did a great job. They work hard, play for each other and love the game.
“They are reaping the rewards, as they should. They deserve it.”
But Ferrigno in his 20th season definitely set the plan with a tough, physical brand of football, as they showed against an equally big and physical group from Balboa.
Solares, whose brother Eric has been with the program for four years and attended Thursday’s game, said Ferrigno is setting the tone for it all.
That’s why the Mustangs have reached the section final 14 times in two decades.
The Mustangs (9-3) enter next week’s CIF State Regional Bowl against an opponent to be announced on Sunday, with the Buccaneers finishing 6-6. They defeated Lincoln in last year’s SFS title game 21-0 en route to a 7-A state title.
Lincoln won back-to-back state titles in 2018 and 2019.
“It’s all about discipline, dedication and desire, as the coach always says,” Solares said. “He’s a hell of a coach.”
Lincoln hit first after a long punt return and a couple of intermediate runs by Ricky Underwood, Michael Simmons made his way home from 1 yard to make it 7–0 with 5:48 left in the first quarter.
Balboa reacted immediately at 4th and 5th, quarterback Edwin Togiai-Mayawa flew a high spiral that Nick Wong hooked in the 20th minute, dragged a pair of defensemen the last 5 yards in the end zone to complete a 30-yard touchdown.
This leveled the score at 7-7 with 1:08 left in the first quarter.
The second quarter was played between the 20s with a lot of hard shots until Togiai-Maiyawa, under heavy pressure from freshman Latu Manumua, made another pass that was intercepted by Solares.
The senior quarterback had a clean swim and ran for 53 yards untouched to give the Mustangs a 14–7 lead with 3:15 left in the half.
“The ball was in the air – it was sort of a duck,” Solares said. “I just went and got it. There was no one in front of me, and I just ran into him.”
This account remained until the break.
Cristerno gave the Mustangs a solid lead in the first drive of the second half, throwing his first 15-yard TD run, dragging several invaders into the end zone.
He entered the game with just three rushing touchdowns. The Mustangs didn’t need their dynamic tandem of Underwood and Jamelle Newman, who scored 20 touchdowns in total.
They had no touchdowns, but together they ran for about 150 yards.
“Yeah, I’m the kind of guy who should just get these cool dirty yards,” Cristerna said. “I’m just glad we did it.”
After a 27-yard field goal by Andre Petrilli, Cristerna added a second TD run midway through the fourth. Solares and Sosa then completely crushed them with their pick-6s.
“At the second, I baited the quarterback and caught him, and I went to the races,” Solares said. “I knew they couldn’t catch me.”
This was the third year in a row that the two teams had met for the championship, having split the last two games.
Balboa won last season 21-0 en route to the CIF State 7-A Championship. Lincoln won the previous two years also en route to state crowns.
All photos below are from Ernie Abrea:
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