Lakewood ambushed opponents last season.
“Nobody paid us any mind,” said third-year coach L.J. Clark. “All of a sudden, we looked up and were 6-1 at one point.”
To hear Clark tell it, the Piners will be etched deep in the consciousness of their opponents this year.
“People will be ready for us,” Clark said. “In the past, Lakewood was scheduled on Homecoming Day for an easy win.”
The Piners’ top player last season was quarterback/defensive back Tyrice Beverette, who has graduated. Senior Ivan Marks will take over at quarterback in the “spread pistol” formation under offensive coordinator Calvin Thompson, the former Point Boro head coach.
“At the end of the day, he has to be Ivan Marks and not Tyrice Beverette,” Clark said. “All he has to do is run the offense and make sure we don’t turn the ball over. Marks, a transfer from Manchester, is a big, physical kid who also plays baseball. He has done very well in the seven on sevens and the preseason drills.”
Marks figures to be throwing often to senior wide receiver David Patterson, the owner of 4.55 speed in the 40-yard dash.
“He may be one of the best receivers in the Shore Conference, but nobody knows about him,” Clark said. “He dominated the seven-on-sevens all summer. He helped us to third place in Ocean County in the seven-on-sevens league. He scored four touchdowns in seven-on-sevens against Monmouth County teams.
“He has a ridiculous vertical leap and runs crisp routes. We expect a huge year from him. He’s definitely a weapon. We have not had a weapon like him in a long time at wide receiver.”
The Piners will feature one of the state’s biggest players in senior nose tackle/offensive tackle Ben Watson. Connecticut, Maryland and Virginia. Temple and Old Dominion have offered a scholarship to Watson, who also plays basketball for the Piners, Watson is being recruited at offensive tackle.
“Schools love his athleticism as they watch him run up and down the court,” Clark said. “He has good footwork for someone his size. Last year, he did not know how to take care of his body. He was 360 pounds last season, but he has cut down his weight and gotten stronger. I see him clogging the middle on defense and paving the way on offense.”