The moment arrived for senior Jacob Lawver, and as such with the identity of a Holy Family offense loaded with guys given bigger roles and more responsibility, he embraced it.
Getting the lead in the Holy Family backfield this fall, Lawver has excelled in the departure of the Tigers’ longtime reliable back Trevin Johnson, accumulating more than 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground in 10 games played.
It’s a standout season that ranks among the most impressive by a back this year in the 3A classification. And maybe more important, it coincides nicely with first-year starting quarterback Rylan Cooney’s passing attack, as the two newbie starters together have helped create a stellar, balanced blitz for the Tigers’ offense.
Now, he’ll need more of the same — and so will Cooney, and others — if Holy Family hopes to knock off top-ranked Roosevelt in the state quarterfinals Saturday afternoon.
“With a whole new offense, I mean, I don’t think we returned a single starter, it’s kind of been that everybody had to prove themselves and earn their spot,” said Lawver, who had just six carries in backup capacity last season. “I’ve just been trying to do that every game.”
This fall, the senior, opportunity in hand, has run behind a fresh-faced offensive line that graduated all-state guys Cord Kringlen and Brody Welch. Working mostly out of a split-back look not seen much from the Tigers a year ago, he shares the backfield with Chase McNaughton, the speed to Lawver’s power.
With it, Lawver has five games with more than 100 yards on the ground. Last week in the 3A opening round 8-vs.-9 matchup, he was front-and-center as he rushed for 218 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-18 win over visiting Pueblo South.
“Well last year, Jacob was primarily a defensive back and was a backup to Trevin Johnson,” Holy Family coach Mike Gabriel said. “And we didn’t do a lot of two-back sets last year, so Jacob really didn’t have a chance to run all that much. But we knew we had a special back in Jacob. We knew once he got going, he’d be a good player for us. But I don’t think I realized how special he’d be.”
It’s vision — the ability to slow down the madness to find the creases — that helps Lawver stand out, his coach said. It’s a power running style that has surged him ahead, wiping away tackles like a light mist.
“I don’t think it’s really a stat that’s tracked in high school as much as it could or should be, but yards after contact for Jacob are huge,” Gabriel said. “The 6.5 (yards) is probably his average per carry, but I would say, of that 6.5, three and a half to four of it is after contact a lot of times. He’s gotten to be a really physical runner, he runs through tackles, and you’re not going to get him down with just one guy or one hit.”
Holy Family’s offense will likely need a big afternoon to keep up with the Johnstown program, which has averaged 46½ points while allowing less than a touchdown per game through its undefeated 11-0 campaign.
The Tigers fell to the Roughriders earlier in the season in what was their worst loss of the fall — 49-7 in game No. 2. In it, Lawver was contained, rushing for just 28 yards on nine carries.
It was the only game this year — outside a forfeit win over Canon City Oct. 1 — the Tigers scored less than 20 points.
“We know the odds that are against us. We know they’re a tough, undefeated team,” Lawver said. “But we’re a brand-new team and we’ve installed countless new plays since (the last meeting with Roosevelt). We’ve learned and pretty much added all the finishing touches. I think we’re ready to go.”
No. 8 Holy Family at No. 1 Roosevelt
Details: Saturday, 1 p.m., at Roosevelt High
Forecast: The Roughriders have walloped 10 of their 11 opponents and survived their lone scare of the fall with a 14-7 win over Fort Morgan on Oct. 22. They beat Holy Family 49-7 Sept. 3, holding its rushing attack to just 35 yards on 26 carries. But the Tigers, who reached the postseason for 18th time in the past 20 years, per coach Mike Gabriel, have come a long way since the Week 2 loss. Rylan Cooney has proven himself through the year, throwing for 1,596 yards and 17 touchdowns to just seven interceptions. The rushing attack headed by Jacob Lawver and Chase McNaughton has averaged 163.2 yards per game.