Don’t let Lincoln High School coach Phil Ferrigno fool you.
If the Mustangs take down Riordan in their home opener on Saturday, the waves created will have a significant impact on city athletics.
In the current climate, an Academic Athletic Association football team isn’t supposed to beat a West Catholic Athletic League opponent, or even come close to doing so. So much so that the leagues haven’t played each other since St. Ignatius blew out Lowell in consecutive years in 2004 and 2005.
“It’s great for The City, but we’re so focused on getting better that it doesn’t even matter who we play,” said Ferrigno, who is also a Riordan alumnus and a member of the school’s Hall of Fame. “We’re more concerned with getting better every week and limiting mistakes.”
Both coaches have downplayed the significance of what a win or loss might mean to each team, but the matchup also puts Riordan in an unfamiliar situation.
For quite a while, the Crusaders have been overwhelming underdogs in almost all of their football games and most certainly WCAL games. Now, the Crusaders are the favorites, despite their performance over the past four seasons, in which they have won just four games combined.
“This program is so far from being Goliath,” Riordan coach Richard Sweeney said. “We’ve put in our work and are trying to be as good as we can, but we are not Goliath, I can assure you that.”
Ferrigno acknowledges that there is little room for error if the Mustangs want a win against Riordan.
“We can’t have any mistakes,” Ferrigno said. “We have to play hard and make sure we don’t do stupid things. With hard work comes opportunity and luck, but the hard work comes first.”
Ferrigno is also waiting until the final day of practice to name his starting quarterback, which has been a competition over the summer between senior Derek Morrell and junior Joshua Burnoski.
On the Riordan side, there isn’t even a stray scent of quarterback controversy.
Junior Zach Masoli is solidly the Riordan starter and leader on offense, and if last season’s opener was any indication, he should have another breakout game.
In a 21-13 loss to Dougherty Valley last season, Masoli threw for 277 yards (a season high) and two touchdowns on 16-of-22 passing.
“It’s not very fun playing against that kid,” Ferrigno said of Masoli. “He’s doing things the Riordan way, which is good to see as an alum.”
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