Since Lawrence High School was playing without starting quarterback Brandon Deckard on Sept. 27 at home, the Cardinals decided not to pass the ball.
It is 2019, not 1925. The forward pass is legal, encouraged and prolific.
Yet the strategy worked.
Behind a running back/receiver, senior Deon McLean, at quarterback and a Wing-T offense featuring two backs, Lawrence earned its first victory of 2019, beating Hightstown High School, 20-14.
Lawrence ran the ball 40 times and threw it once. The Cardinals racked up 246 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
Junior Careem Frost carried the ball nine times for 145 yards and a touchdown. McLean produced the other rushing touchdown. Four different Lawrence backs, Frost, McLean, junior Diesel Barnes and sophomore Miayer Clay, recorded at least 20 rushing yards.
Lawrence’s running game even set up that one passing play. Late in the second quarter, McLean tossed a seven-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Matt Kildea.
“We controlled the clock and played three yards and a cloud of dust,” Radice said. “Plus we scored 20, so I thought it was good.”
“It was the right system for these kids,” he added.
Deckard is almost healthy and ready to return, and Radice said he will get the starting job back once he does. But the coach also unlocked something in the Sept. 27 victory over Hightstown: Lawrence has a lot of athletes who can run the ball.
The coach plans to continue with a version of the Wing-T offense that worked against the Rams. Only with Deckard in the lineup, the coach will be able to add more of a passing element, particularly through play action.
The Cardinals opened the season using a spread offense but they crammed in the knowledge of running the Wing-T. And the results proved that Lawrence adopted to that type of an offense quite well.
Radice is hoping that the run will set up the pass, just like it did on that one passing play on Sept. 27.
“We’ll mesh systems and Brandon will give us more of an ability to throw,” he said. “This system allows more people to get involved and everyone gets more touches.”
Lawrence is growing as an offensive football team. It also has a pretty solid defense to rely on.
The Cardinals registered five sacks versus Hightstown. They recorded the same number in their season opener at Hopewell Valley Central High School on Sept. 13.
Frost, Kildea, Jaden Green and Kodey Lightner have all “gotten a bunch of pressures and sacks,” Radice said, from Lawrence’s front seven.
“We keep getting better at rushing,” he added. “I definitely see us getting better overall, which is a nice sign.”
Lawrence’s next two games are very winnable, too. The Cardinals are scheduled to play Ewing High School on Oct. 5 and then Princeton High School on Oct. 11. Ewing and Princeton are a combined 0-7 this fall, with all seven losses coming by double digits.
Radice, though, is not looking past anyone, and neither are his Cardinals.
“Ewing is fast, athletic and hungry for its first W,” he said. “It’s always a good crosstown rivalry, so we’re excited for it.”
The coach is also excited for the rest of the season. Sept. 27 was both a victory on the schedule and a moral victory for the Cards.
“It showed our willingness to fight for 48 minutes,” Radice said. “We have a mentality that we’re always in the game.”