Lawrence football coach installing new systems in second turn leading program

Scott Jacobs

Rob Radice stepped down as Lawrence High School’s head football coach after the 2013 season.

He wanted to watch his son and daughter play high school sports.

But now Radice has more time again, so he is back to resurrect the Lawrence football program. After a 1-8 season in 2018, Lawrence brought Radice back as its head football coach in the offseason.

In 2013, Radice’s last season leading the Cardinals, the team went 10-1 and lost in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 3 sectional playoff championship, 31-14 to Hopewell Valley Central High School. But since then, the Cards have enjoyed just one winning season, in 2016. And last year, they were outscored 159-65.

The new old coach has his work cut out for him. But Radice graduated from Lawrence in 1986, started as an assistant coach with the Cards in 1990, served as the head coach from 2000-2013 and still teaches history at the school. He is excited to be back home.

Lawrence will kick off its season on Sept. 5 at home against Burlington Township High School.

“It’s a great opportunity and I have a lot of pride in this program,” Radice said.

Radice is installing new systems on both sides of the ball. He wants the Cardinals to play a spread offense and a multiple defense with four down linemen. In other words, he is trying to mold Lawrence into a modern football team that plays an open, free flowing style on both sides.

The spread is a way to get the ball into the hands of a variety of playmakers, and a multiple defense allows back seven players to roam the field and make plays.

Radice and his coaches took over the program in March, and they began working five days a week to install the systems. They implemented the offense on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and the defense on Tuesdays and Thursdays, all through the spring and summer.

“It’s exciting,” Radice said. “It’s a different way of doing things.”

One positive of Lawrence’s 2018 campaign was that quarterback Brandon Deckard started every game as a freshman. So going into 2019, he is an experienced sophomore. That’s why Radice expects him to be a solid point guard for the spread offense.

Deckard has athleticism and a strong arm. But more importantly, the game has slowed down for him after a year as a starter.

“He’s not panicking and he shows improvement every day,” Radice said.

The quarterback has a host of athletic playmakers around him, too. Receivers Semaj Dastinot, Gabe Mitchell White and Deon McLean should provide both a vertical and horizontal element to the offense, a key for any spread. And running back Diesel Barnes is a 5-10, 178-pound junior who can break a big play at any moment.

Lawrence’s offensive line and tight end group are still rounding into form. But between those playmakers and Deckard, Radice at least has a solid starting five.

“We’re optimistic,” he said.

Radice feels the same way about his defense. Jalen Burks, Kodey Lightner and Warren Aime are all potential multi positional athletes who could make an impact on that side of the ball.

But for now it’s still the summer, and Radice remains focused on installing systems and principles.

“Just win the day and get better,” he said. “And the rest will take care of itself.”