Editor's note: This is part of a series of San Francisco prep football previews.
Every year, wide-eyed Lincoln High School freshmen football players walk through the school's P.E. office and see pictures of former Lincoln players who gained San Francisco Section All-Academic Athletic Association honors.
"They come in for the first time and say, 'I want to be up there on that wall,'" Mustangs coach Phil Ferrigno said. "Then I tell them, 'It's a long road, kid. When you come here, you have to earn everything.' That's part of the tradition we have here at Lincoln."
Tradition matters, and nowhere is that more important than at Lincoln, which made a return to the top of the AAA in style last year, defeating Mission 22-21 in the Turkey Day game. Tyree Marzetta, who ran in the winning 2-point conversion with under 30 seconds remaining in the game, is the marquee returner for the Mustangs, who finished 11-1 overall and 6-0 in league play last season. It was a return to glory for a program that won four consecutive Turkey Day games from 2005-08 before falling on hard times in 2010, finishing 0-11.
"You just never know in the AAA," Ferrigno said. "Last year ended up being a great team, and the guys this year are getting there in terms of buying into what it takes to be a winner."
Unlike a lot of coaches who try to convince others that their team will run and pass at an equal percentage, Ferrigno doesn't go down that road.
"We play ball-control offense," he said. "Control the clock and play good defense, and you'll be in every game."
And with dominant two-way linemen in Justin Lee, Master Lo, Simon Yu, Frank Solano and Zaire Hawkins, expect the Mustangs to run early and run often.
"Justin, Master and Simon are big and athletic, and they get off the ball well and get leverage in their battles," Ferrigno said.
Marzetta, a dynamic tailback-linebacker, figures to handle most of the running workload this season. At 6-foot and 190 pounds, Marzetta often punishes defenders with his bruising running style. When Lincoln goes to its bunch formation, it will have an even bigger advantage on its opponents because physical tight ends Joshua Bonse-Davis and Davion Telfor go 6-6 and 6-2, respectively.
Quarterback Justin Chiong, who took only a couple of snaps under center last season, adds to Lincoln's potent ground game. Although Chiong might be limited throwing-wise, he's a real threat to run for a big gain at any moment. Ferrigno is particularly pleased that he has a quarterback who can run for a gain when a play breaks down.