PRINCETON, Ky. — His wedding, the birth of his two kids and his first win as the head coach of Calloway County- Those are the top four moments in first-year head coach Brad Lawson’s life, as told to his team after they defeated Caldwell County 34-31 last night to win their season opener and start the Lawson era.
Lawson said he’s won state championships, coached in front of tens of thousands of fans and had plenty of big wins but to him last night’s win is by far the biggest win he’s ever been associated with.
“I’ve never been prouder of a group of young men,” he said. “They fought and fought and fought tonight and showed a lot of heart, determination and guts against a really good Caldwell team.”
In near-opposite polarity to last year’s 62-80 offense showcase, the defense was the key Friday. The Laker defense made it known early they would not allow the big plays that ran up the scoreboard last year, sacking Caldwell quarterback Elijah Sindelar as he attempted to throw deep during the Tigers’ first possession.
“We made them drive. I thought if we could make them drive instead of giving up those home runs we could win,” Lawson said. “We had a lot of gain tackling in the right spot and we made some big, huge plays and good stops.”
The big defensive stops didn’t keep the Tigers completely out of the end zone, but still forced punts, fumbles, an interception and a turnover on downs. Near the end of the first half, the Lakers thought they had forced a fumble on a quarterback sack but officials ruled the ball down. However on the next play the Lakers forced a fumble that they would keep, ending the Tigers’ last-minute drive before the half.
The Laker offense showed it could still pull off some big plays of its own, capitalizing on an onside kick recovery to start the second half. It only took quarterback Tyler Greer one big pass play to set him up for a touchdown run to stretch the lead. Greer ended the night with four rushing touchdowns, one passing touching and nearly 400 total yards split evenly on the ground and in the air. He said he is adjusting well to Lawson’s coaching style and believes the rest of the team is as well.
“I think tonight went great. (Lawson) brings a new tempo and gets everybody pumped up. He’s a great motivator,” Greer said.
Penalties and a few early-season mistakes plagued the Lakers during the game, like allowing a big Tiger return on kickoff or a high punt snap over Greer’s head that gave Caldwell the ball on their own 22-yard line (they would later turn the ball over on downs after a strong defensive stand by the Lakers). Two consecutive horsecollar penalties gave Caldwell County excellent field position in the fourth quarter to score and get within two points of taking the lead. Despite the negatives, however, Lawson said he was not worried.
“It’s game one and those things are fixable. We’ve had one scrimmage before this game ... defensively we’ve got to shore some things up but it’s a process ... We’ll get better as the season goes along,” he said.
Caldwell County had one last chance to win the game when they forced the Lakers to punt with just more than a minute left in the game. Down by three points, Sindelar completed a series of passes to get within striking range but after a sack was forced to throw a hail mary pass to the endzone that was intercepted by Andy Fraher as time expired.
The win gives the Lakers a 1-0 record and plenty of steam going into next week’s Crosstown Classic against rival Murray High but Lawson wasn’t quite ready to move past the big season opener win.
“We’re going to savor this one for a little bit,” he said. “I’m used to rivalry games since I coached for Mayfield and Graves so I understand but this is going to make next week huge because nobody expected us to win (tonight) other than our coaches, players and supporters.”