In his first season back coaching the Lawrence High School football team, Rob Radice wants to make incremental progress.
After the Cardinals’ 1-8 season in 2018, Radice knows it would be unwise to set record and state playoff goals.
On Sept. 13 at Hopewell Valley Central High School, Lawrence lost a tough opening matchup with the Bulldogs, 21-0. But it did make some incremental progress. The Cardinals showed they can shut down the passing game.
Hopewell Valley did not complete a single pass on Sept. 13, going zero for six. Lawrence also sacked the Bulldogs five times. Senior linebacker Kodey Lightner recorded two sacks in the first half from blitzing off the edge.
The pass defense wasn’t enough to win the game for Lawrence, as Hopewell Valley controlled the contest with its defense and running game. But it was a major positive to take away from week one.
“Guys are getting better,” said Radice. “We’ve done it for three scrimmages, too.”
Lawrence also showed some progress on offense early in the Hopewell Valley game. In the first quarter, the Cards drove deep into Bulldogs territory and nearly scored the game’s first points, ultimately falling short on a fourth down attempt.
But on the drive, the team showed what could become its hallmark in 2019: Athleticism.
Sophomore quarterback Brandon Deckard hit senior tight end Matt Kildea for two chunk plays over the middle, both picking up first downs. He also threw a first down pass in the flat to senior skill guy Deon McLean and a first down pass out of the backfield to sophomore skill guy Gabe Mitchell-White.
Deckard worked out of the shotgun the whole drive, and he kept the Bulldogs off balanced by working the ball all over the field. It could be a recipe for success moving forward. The Cardinals just have to get more consistent with their attack.
“We have some guys that are learning new spots and they keep getting better, but they are still a little green,” Radice said. “Learning new systems takes time.”
Radice also acknowledged that playing Hopewell Valley, a talented team with playoff aspirations, was a difficult task right out of the gate, but one that would harden the Cards for games down the line.
They will have another difficult task in week two at home against Notre Dame High School.
The local rivals will meet on Sept 20 under the lights at 7 at Lawrence’s field.
The Irish are 2-0 and they have beaten two solid programs, Ewing High School and Allentown High School, by a combined score of 97-18. They beat Ewing 55-12 on Sept. 6 and Allentown 42-6 on Sept. 13.
Lawrence allowed 226 rushing yards and two touchdowns to Hopewell Valley running back Henry Lewis in week one, and it will have its hands full with another back, Notre Dame’s Cortaz Williams, in week two.
Through two games, Williams has carried the ball 21 times for 322 yards and five touchdowns. That’s an average of 15.3 yards per carry.
It’s another tough matchup for the Cardinals, but just like the Hopewell Valley game, it will make them better, and that’s what it’s all about right now.
“It’s a huge challenge,” Radice said. “We’ll see what kind of resolve we have.”