Best may yet come for Casa quarterback Lawson

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Casa Grande quarterback JaJuan Lawson, center, has drawn interest from college programs such as Arizona, Fresno State and Boston College. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat)

Casa Grande quarterback JaJuan Lawson, center, has drawn interest from college programs such as Arizona, Fresno State and Boston College. (Kent Porter / The Press Democrat)

PETALUMA — Pick a source for motivation and quarterback JaJuan Lawson smiles at the prospect of proving he and Casa Grande can play with the best.

Following narrow defeats in playoff contests the past two seasons, Lawson is certain Casa Grande can win the school’s first North Coast Section title.

Slowed by injury a year ago, Lawson worked to become stronger and durable enough to play at a high level the entire season.

One of California’s prep quarterbacks to watch after a stellar sophomore season, Lawson brims with confidence entering his senior campaign.

“You should always think you’re the best. Then all it comes down to is putting in the work to get better,” Lawson said. “I’ve got a lot of unfinished business.”

One of the Bay Area’s top dual-threat quarterbacks, an improved Lawson poses an even more daunting challenge for opponents.

“You always have to account for him,” Rancho Cotate coach Ed Conroy said. “You can do everything to contain him and he still will make a play. Athletically he’s among the best.”

The best could be yet to come.

Consider that Lawson already has shown skills impressive enough to draw scholarship offers from more than a dozen colleges, from Arizona to Kansas to Boston College and programs in between. Most see Lawson as a quarterback.

The numbers:

  • Lawson has averaged nearly 2,100 yards passing each of his first two seasons, completing two-thirds of his attempts.
  • Totaling 39 touchdowns against 19 interceptions is a very good ratio of scores to turnovers.
  • Averaging more than 500 yards rushing a season, Lawson has run for 17 touchdowns.

“He’s phenomenal. He’s proven to be the best player out there,” Casa Grande coach Trent Herzog said.

What’s missing is the team’s ultimate success, a section title. Casa Grande again is a top contender in NCS Division 2.

“That’s been the expectation every year. The last two seasons we prepared great. We just didn’t do our job,” Lawson said. “It’s all about focus.”

A quiet leader on the field in the past, Lawson is taking greater command beyond the huddle.

The potential for a team returning 13 starters from a year ago stokes Lawson’s confidence that this Gauchos squad could be the school’s best ever.

“We are practicing at a great level,” he said. “I’m looking for a big year. I want to show I’m not content.”

Such passion to play at ever higher levels is driven in part by frustration with struggles toward the end of last season.

Suffering a high ankle sprain in a loss to Rancho Cotate slowed Lawson for much of that and the final four contests. Sitting out practices and walking in a protective boot allowed Lawson to play games. But he was hobbled enough that Lawson couldn’t run half of Casa Grande’s playbook.

Staying in games was important to Lawson, who said he appreciates the experience and camaraderie of high school football.

To that end Lawson is preparing his body for a strong senior season. Fitness is all the more important if Lawson plays more at defensive back.

“I want to be more durable because my team needs me,” Lawson said. “People are looking up to me and I need to be that leader.”

For a game that has been fun since Lawson could throw a football, work is how he describes the months since Casa Grande’s last playoff defeat.

There was work in track season — once his severely sprained ankle healed — to train smarter, including more disciplined stretching routines.

Work in the weight room has Lawson topping 200 pounds without losing a step of speed. Lawson at 6-foot-1 can run like a deer.

Throughout summer, Lawson traveled to a half dozen quarterback and skills camps in and out of California. Lawson doubled work on his craft beyond team training, camps and passing leagues.

“I bumped it up this summer. I had to show the work ethic to do what’s necessary to be great,” Lawson said.

Lawson was tabbed for greatness after a sterling sophomore season. Cal-Hi Sports named Lawson to the First Team Sophomores as a multipurpose player.

Playing his way back to the top is a goal second only to helping lead Casa Grande to a memorable season.

“I have a chip on my shoulder,” Lawson said. “That’s something I like to play with. It kind of gives you a little edge.”

You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or mike.coit@pressdemocrat.com.

Comments are closed.