It was also a game that had both coaches fighting back tears after a thrilling, physical matchup.
Lincoln needed a late fourth quarter goal-line stand to force overtime, before recovering its own fumble to defeat pesky Mission 18-12, surviving and returning to the AAA championship game. Lincoln will look to defend its championship against Galileo, which beat Lowell 46-28 in the other semifinal Thursday.
On third-and-goal from the Mission 5-yard line in overtime, Lincoln running back Davion Telfor took a handoff and fumbled into the end zone, but senior offensive lineman Justin Lee recovered the Telfor fumble three yards deep in the end zone, giving Lincoln the winning score and sending the Mustangs to the AAA championship.
Lincoln coach Phil Ferrigno fought back tears after the game, as the gut-wrenching victory sent Lincoln to its seventh Turkey Day appearance in 12 years with Ferrigno at the helm.
“My hats off to Mission, they played so hard, but our guys just showed tremendous will today,” Ferrigno said. “I’m very blessed to be in this business and I’m humbled by it all. I just hope we can put together a good showing next Thursday.”
Mission (5-6) with only six seniors on its roster, didn’t resemble the team that got shut out last week.
Midway through the third quarter, Lincoln drove 98 yards on seven plays, culminated by a 40-yard touchdown run by running back Tyree Marzetta.
Mission responded immediately, as quarterback Jerrell Stancil’s 1-yard touchdown run tied the game at 12-12, capping off an 80-yard drive for the Bears.
What will likely haunt Mission all offseason came late in the fourth quarter. After Stancil scampered 28 yards on a keeper, Lincoln was called for a horse-collar, giving Mission the ball at the Mustangs’ 15-yard line with 2:29 left in the game.
With 1:53 left in regulation, Mission faced a 4th-and-goal inside of Lincoln’s 1-yard line, but the Mustangs stuffed Stancil on a quarterback keeper.
Mission coach Joe Albano, whose team amassed 253 total yards, was distraught afterwards as his team had a huge opportunity to pull the upset.
“I’ve got to get this team into the end zone, and I take full responsibility for this loss,” Albano said. “If my seniors ever need everything, I told them don’t be hesitant to call me. To be honest, I apologized to the team because that was the game.”
Marzetta finished with 198 yards on 26 carries and two touchdowns. Fellow backfield mate Telfor finished with 91 yards rushing on 16 carries. Marzetta was excited about going to the Turkey Bowl, but knows that the mission isn’t complete.
“I’m excited about getting Turkey Day, but we can’t be satisfied with this,” Marzetta said. “We’re going to have to handle business and play better than we did today.”