Lawrence Academy coach Michael Taylor was asked what he considered the weakness of his defending Independent School League and New England Prep School Athletic Council Samson/Lorden Bowl champion.
“Hmmmm,” Taylor said, clearly stumped by the inquiry.
“I’d say, with any ISL school, depth,” Taylor said. “If we had to play the schedule like Brockton and Xaverian and Everett, we don’t have the depth on the roster. We don’t have the long numbers because of student population. There’s somewhere around 160 boys in the school. It would be tough to compete on a longer schedule like the public schools do because we don’t have the student population.”
Taylor said about 60 players play from the freshman level up, but only 20-to-25 get significant varsity reps from offense to defense to special teams.
“In that regard, we’re a tiny team,” Taylor said.
Well, that’s the only regard in which this team can be described as “tiny.” In everything else – from pure physical size, speed, talent, you name it – the Spartans are the exact opposite. This team is huge. A colossal. There isn’t a “look test” that this team doesn’t pass.
The most obvious example is the offensive line. From tackle to tackle, the heights and weights of the Spartans are as follows: 6-feet, 5-inches, 360 pounds; 6-1, 300; 6-6, 235; 6-5, 278; and 6-5, 340. And it’s a group that has an athleticism that belies its bulk.
Tyler Cardoze (the 6-5, 340-pounder from Queens, NY) has the best feet out of all of them. A young senior who just turned 17 on Aug. 10, Cardoze holds an offer from Bryant but might have the most upside of any player on a team that already has four BCS verbally committed athletes.
“He’s our best offensive lineman,” Taylor said, “which is saying a lot.”
Max Ricci, a 6-5, 360-pound verbal commit to Boston College and native of Jamaica Plain, also has seemingly limitless potential. According to Taylor, Ricci first played organized football just two years ago.
“When it’s really driving rain and windy, we’re an opponent’s worst nightmare,” he added. “With our line, we’re not just a finesse offense. We are a fundamental group. We’re going to line up and we’re going to come right at you. We have both options available. That’s one of the benefits of having a good, athletic line like that.”
It doesn’t hurt to have a 6-3, 220-pound running back in Anthony Knight who clocked a 4.55 forty-yard dash at NC State’s camp and committed to the Wolfpack shortly thereafter. Not surprisingly, Knight averaged over 14 yards per carry last year.
The Spartans’ most explosive skill player is Marcus Grant, a speedy wideout who burns defenses both on sweeps on handoffs from Michael Orloff or catching passes from the senior Danvers native. Both players are verbally committed to Iowa.
Defensively, Orloff is a hard-hitting safety and middle linebacker Dan Giovacchini of Acton returned six interceptions for touchdowns last year.
“He’s somebody that flies under the radar a little bit,” Taylor said of Giovacchini, who is receiving heavy interest from the Ivy League and Boston College.
Senior guard and nose guard Ryan Welch (6-1, 300) suffered a hamstring injury over the summer but still owns a New Hampshire offer already and is one of the most physical linemen in New England.
This is a Lawrence team that can play with anyone on any given day and will be a huge favorite against everyone on its schedule, including BB&N — the only team to beat the Spartans in the last two years. But Taylor does his best to keep what happens on the field in perspective.
“Winning is nice. It is,” Taylor said. “But I’ll tell you what. If we lost all of our games but were able to get every senior free education by playing football, I’d sacrifice it in a second, because that education is going to last them a lifetime.”
LAWRENCE ACADEMY AT A GLANCE
2009 record: 9-0, won ISL title and beat Kimball Union in Samson/Lorden Bowl
Coach: Michael Taylor (3rd year, 16-1)
Players to watch: Michael Orloff, Sr., QB/S, 6-3, 220 (verbal commit to Iowa); Anthony Knight, Sr., RB/CB, 6-3, 220 (verbal commit to NC State); Marcus Grant, Sr., WR/CB, 6-3, 190 (verbal commit to Iowa); Max Ricci, Sr., OT/DT, 6-5, 360 (verbal commit to Boston College); Dan Giovacchini, Sr., MLB, 6-5, 225; Tyler Cardoze, Sr., OT/DT, 6-5, 340; Ryan Welch, Sr., G/NG, 6-1, 300; Clay Horne, Sr., WR/TE, 6-7, 220; Nevin Cyr, Jr., WR/TE/OLB, 6-6, 230; Tyler Beauschesne, Jr., G/DL, 6-5, 278; Matt Boone, Sr., C, 6-6, 235; Jack Michaels, So., DL, 6-1, 260; Dominik Kozlowski, Jr., CB/WR/K, 6-1, 190; Owen Moore, Jr., FB, 6-0, 230; Peter Taylor, Sr., FB/DE, 6-1, 200.
Strengths: Line play, skill positions, speed, physicality, overall talent level, experience.
Outlook: It is by no means hyperbolic to suggest that this year’s version of the Spartans is the most talented in ISL history, as four seniors are already committed to BCS-level schools and the likelihood of more to come. Offensively, Lawrence is versatile and explosive. The Spartans can stretch the field vertically and horizontally or pound the ball between the tackles with Knight behind an overpowering and college-sized offensive line. On defense, Lawrence runs a 50 front that is strong up the middle with Welch over center, Giovacchini (6 INTs returned for TDs last season) at middle linebacker and Orloff at safety. With BB&N looking at a relative rebuilding year, the question isn’t whether or not anyone on Lawrence’s schedule can beat the Spartans, it’s whether or not anyone on its schedule can stay within four touchdowns of them, as the Knights were the only team to do so last year.