Football: Newman’s Lucey brothers have put up big numbers

By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Cardinal Newman's Craig Lucey breaks loose on a 20-yard run in the second quarter on Friday. (John Burgess / The Press Democrat)

Cardinal Newman’s Craig Lucey breaks loose on a 20-yard run in the second quarter on Friday. (John Burgess / The Press Democrat)

The question for Cardinal Newman this week is whether the Cardinals can beat Casa Grande with just one Lucey.

Kevin Lucey, Newman’s leading receiver and all-around utility knife of a player, sweated through his paces at the team’s practice Tuesday afternoon. But his younger brother, Craig Lucey, could only watch, his left arm supported by a sling.

Craig broke his clavicle in a 42-41 victory over Rancho Cotate last weekend, and will not play against the undefeated Gauchos on Friday. Sidelined six to eight weeks, he probably won’t see the field again this year.

“I’m just kind of frustrated. It’s like right before all of our big games are happening,” Craig said.

As Cardinal Newman coach Paul Cronin noted, it could be worse.

“The blessings are two things,” Cronin said. “One is he’s a junior. So he has extra opportunity to play high school football. You hate to see seniors get hurt. … And we do have someone that’s very capable of doing a good job.”

That would be junior Zach Stoltz. He began the season as the Cardinals’ featured back, until the Newman coaches got a full understanding of Craig Lucey’s talents.

So far most of the year, the majority of Cardinal Newman’s yardage has been gained by someone named Lucey. Craig has rushed for 613 yards and netted another 129 on nine catches; Kevin has caught 50 passes for 921 yards, adding 68 on 13 carries. (These numbers exclude the opener against Modesto Christian, for which statistics were not available.)

That’s 1,731 yards from scrimmage for the Lucey brothers, 1,001 for everyone else on the team. They also have combined for 18 touchdowns (12 by Kevin). Of course, a lot of teammates helped the siblings compile those numbers, but you get the idea of their importance to the offense.

In Kevin’s case, it doesn’t end with offense, either. He starts at cornerback, punts for the Cardinals and returns kicks, too.

And then there’s this: In football, they call it a stalk block when a receiver drives off the line, stops suddenly, sets his feet in front of the guy covering him and mirrors the opponent’s lateral movement to shield a runner. Cronin said Kevin Lucey is one of the three best stalk blockers he’s ever coached, along with D.J. Sexton and Jacob Webb.

Think of someone who does all of those things every game — or someone who can run the ball 31 times, as Craig Lucey did against Rancho — and you probably picture a big kid, or at least a stocky one.

But Kevin is about 5-foot-10, 170 pounds, and Craig is around 5-10, 165. Neither looks like he can push a refrigerator uphill.

The Luceys make up for their lack of bulk with superior speed, toughness and a keen mental appreciation of the game.

“We’ve had a lot of guys who are as athletic as Kevin Lucey,” Cronin said. “But few guys — and I’m saying a very small amount — have taken that ability to the level he’s taken it to.”

With Craig Lucey out, Cardinal Newman will be looking for an even bigger contribution from Kevin. He has been quarterback Keaton Dunsford’s primary target all year long, and will occasionally run the ball both on end-arounds and from the backfield.

Casa Grande will be his stiffest competition yet. The 9-0 Gauchos can sew up the outright North Bay League championship, and probably the top seed in the North Coast Section Division 2 playoffs, with a victory at Newman on Friday.

Casa’s strengths begin with dual-threat quarterback JaJuan Lawson and record-setting running back John Porchivina. But they don’t end there.

“Those two are their stars, but there are so many more,” Cronin said. “You look at their team, they’re a bunch of All-Empire players. I mean, there’s probably 15 All-Empire players on that squad. It’s a fun team to watch on film.”

For the Luceys, this season has offered a rare opportunity to play on the same team. To hear them tell it, the experience has been all good.

“It’s been a blast,” Kevin Lucey said. “I’m basically just playing for the team, playing with my bro. It’s fun.”

Brothers who are little more than a year apart in age tend to be tight, but more often than not the closeness is accompanied by competitiveness and conflict. The Lucey brothers report nothing of the kind.

“I share a room with him, and we’re actually pretty cool,” Kevin said. “We’re basically roommates. No problems at all, actually.”

In fact, the Luceys say they are almost identical in temperament and interests. It isn’t the most interesting story line, but these brothers get along just fine.

Unfortunately, they have probably played their last high school game together.

You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at 521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com.

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