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Davon Lawrence and His Place in Sachem Football History

Posted Wednesday, July 28, 2010 by SachemPatch.com

It's hard to pinpoint just when Davon Lawrence became the fleeting beast that he was on the gridiron. A quiet personality that speaks volumes in the athletic world, Lawrence will be the key name mentioned when Sachem North football fans speak of the glorious 2009 season. 

The rushing machine glided his way to numerous records and was an evolving threat that not many adversaries had no answer for in a year marred by one loss in the Suffolk County title game to William Floyd.

Lawrence was noticed in eighth grade as a student at Samoset Middle School. Varsity baseball and JV football coach Tom Gambino saw him in the cafeteria and introduced him to the middle school coaches right away.

"I really wasn't interested," Lawrence recalls. "When I first tried it, I didn't play as much. I got into two games, liked it and stuck with it."

It didn't take long for him to make an impact as he rushed for an eye-catching 20 touchdowns as a freshman under Ron Chirachella's guidance.

"We don't keep official stats, but he averaged about 200 yards a game," Chirichella says. "He probably had 1,400 or 1,500 yards. He was a glider, very raw.

Playing behind Anthony Quezada, another dominant back in Sachem's modern era, Lawrence wasn't living up to the billing as a sophomore and junior.

"He wasn't himself," Chirachella recalls, "but once he sort of found himself, he could run with the best of them, not hesitating and just hitting the hole. He needs to carry the ball a lot and he wasn't going to get that behind Quezada."

Enter senior year.

Lawrence had a wide-open eight-game regular season to do whatever he wanted on the field. Pinning Sachem against William Floyd, the Goliaths of Division I, in the season-opener may have forced a sour taste in the mouths of other teams from the get-go, but this group was different.

With the season there for Lawrence's taking, he rushed for 163 yards and two touchdowns. Travis Nardello kicked a field goal in the final minute of the game to give Sachem a 17-14 victory, one of its most important wins of all-time.

That spurred the Arrows onto nine more consecutive victories. Mixed throughout the season were a handful of 200-yard, multi-touchdown performances from the dazzling Lawrence.

By the eighth game there was really only one thing he hadn't done – tie or break a significant record set by James O'Neal, who is clearly the best running back in program history.

Against a weak Commack team on the road, Lawrence scrambled for five touchdowns, tying a mark O'Neal set twice in his historic 1995 season.

He only played in the first half and North head coach Dave Falco made it clear Lawrence had two series to get the scores. Piece of cake. He hurdled through the line and went untouched for a 70-yard run for the fourth touchdown and a 51-yard scramble for the fifth.

"He could have had 10," Falco says.

Lawrence finished the day with 257 yards. Unlike O'Neal, Lawrence played both sides of the ball and stayed on the field nearly every play of the game. O'Neal didn't have to with the caliber if players and talent pool to choose from in the pre-split days.

"Next to Jimmy's 1995 year, this was one of the most exciting that I've ever seen," Chirachella says. "It all clicked for him. The stiff arm, the lean. Plus giving him misdirection, Power-I. He's such a physical player."

For Lawrence, there was a brief time when he thought his senior season might be washed away completely. His family foreclosed on their Nesconset home, forcing them to move back to Central Islip, where the Lawrence's originally lived. Some questioned his ineligibility, since he wasn't living in Sachem.

"Millions of people lose their homes," Falco says. "Rules allow you to play. It was a difficult time for him."

"I was really nervous," said Lawrence, who will play football at Division I-AA Stony Brook next year. "I didn't want to let my teammates down. They were saying we'd have to forfeit our wins. I was really scared."

No one was at fault and Lawrence was not breaking any rules since a financial situation hindered him from living in the district. It was out of his control.

Sachem lost to Floyd in the Division I Suffolk County final and Lawrence finished his career as the fourth all-time leading rusher in school history with 2,116 yards and 27 touchdowns. His 10.4 yards per carry average in 2009 and 9.3 yards per carry for his career and both records. His 1,887 yards in 2009 is the second highest single-season total in school history. He also had 72 career solo tackles and 54 career unassisted tackles on defense. He was named team and offensive MVP in 2009, as well as All-Long Island, All-Suffolk County and All-Division and was named Division I player of the year.

That's just the fall. After football he turned his attention to basketball and track, making him one of the most accomplished three-sport athletes in Sachem's recent history.

"I think he's one of those athletes of really high character, who has such a great demeanor," said North head basketball coach Mike Atkinson, who is retiring after this school year. "He never gets flustered. He is amazing under pressure. You never see him get too up, too down. He has a great knack for focusing in on information that you give him as a coach, whether it's in practice or a scouting report, or adjustments during a game. He maybe the most coachable kid I've ever had."

On the basketball court, he struggled shooting as a freshman and sophomore and improved during his upperclassman years. He wasn't the team's most prolific shooter, but he scored when necessary.

Perhaps his greatest shot came in his final game – a playoff contest against Half Hollow Hills West, who was ranked No. 1 on the Island at the time.

"Against one of the greatest teams in the history of Long Island, Davon had one his greatest games," Atkinson says.

On his last possession, Lawrence sunk a three-point shot. The significance? It was the first and only three-ball of his four-year high school career.

"Nothing but net," Atkinson recalls. "That's a culmination of everything Davon is, how he worked, who he was, listening to instruction. He would never jeopardize the team for his individual goals."

Lawrence finished with 17 points that game - merely basic numbers for an extraordinary athlete.

"He's one of the greatest athletes to come through those hallways," Atkinson says. "He's one of my favorites of all-time."

Asked what his best moment has been this year, Lawrence didn't take long to think of his touchdown catch against Floyd in the County title game. It was a long toss from Angelo Armine that fluttered in the end zone off the fingertips of a Colonial defender and another Sachem receiver. Like every play he was a part of, the ball glided softly into his hands and he walked quietly to the sidelines to focus on the next series.

As he focuses on the sunset of his track career (he was a state champion in the 4x100 relay last year) over the next two weeks, he'll try to put the finishing touches on a resume that should give him considerable attention for a possible Richard Van Norr Award – the district's top three-sport athlete – nomination at Sachem this year.

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