Big man in trenches paces youthful Allentown Central Catholic football team
The heat wave that scorched the Lehigh Valley last week forced Allentown Central Catholic to adjust its football training schedule for the preseason.
It also gave the Vikings’ best player a chance to work on his # 1 personal goal – to become a two-way standout.
Adversary offenses have already seen enough of senior lineman Lavon Johnson. The 6-foot-4,320-pounder was named the EPC Lehigh Division Defensive MVP during the 2020 season shortened by the pandemic after amassing 59 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, and four sacks. Its size and production have resulted in more than a dozen Division I scholarship offers, with Michigan being one of the key programs pursued.
Johnson would like to go full-time on the offensive when he’s not ruining opposing running games. Condition in the heat is a key factor in your chances of playing either way.
“This year is a real year and we have to stay in shape as our first few games are going to be really hot,” Johnson said at the start of a recent morning session. “Our players are young, it’s a new experience for them too.”
Central Catholic youth excel most in offensive skills, with many of the loyal members of the District 11 Class 4A championship team graduating last season. The Vikings are also showing their share of youth around Johnson on the D-Line.
For coach Tim McGorry it is consolation to have one of the best players in the region. Few teams will succeed in moving Johnson in trying to launch a hasty attack.
McGorry has tried to give Johnson as many reps as possible while working in the heat to prepare him for this season.
“One of the things that hurt us last year when we tried to play him both ways was that we didn’t have a training camp and we didn’t have an offseason at all,” said McGorry. “Three hundred and twenty pounds is a lot of weight to move about.
“We’ll see how it goes in Scrimmage and how it develops over the course of the year.”
While Johnson leads the Central Catholic line of defense, he’s not alone. Michael Snyder and Mitchell Miller both have university experience. Several undergraduate and freshman students also showed their skills during camp, which gives McGorry hopes of having 6-7 players ready to rotate forward.
This group could be the Central Catholic’s forte once they gain experience in the offensive.
“That’s a young group too,” said McGorry. “But so far in the training camp it has been an impressive group on the D-line. This is a place where we feel pretty comfortable. “
Why Central Catholic fans should be excited
Central Catholic’s O-Line should be solid no matter how much offensive Johnson plays. The Vikings return a bookend in the left tackle to David Platt. Michael Synder, who would have logged on the O-Line last season but tore a cruciate ligament, is back.
Miller, a junior, also has college experience.
“There are some leaders in this group because there are seniors,” said McGorry. “So that was positive.”
Why Central Catholic Fans Should Be Worried
The Vikings completed most of their offensive production, including standout running back Jayden Williams and quarterback Matt Rauscher, who is now a freshman to Lehigh University. McGorry likes the potential of the juniors and college students competing for spots in the skill position, but these players have to prove they are ready for Friday night.
Juniors Conner Aquino and Matt Keyes entered camp and fought for the quarterback starting place. McGorry expected to win the contest by scrimmage from Central Catholic against Northampton.
Quotable: Trainer Tim McGorry
(via his young offensive players)
“You just need repetitions. I don’t know if something can replicate Friday and Saturday nights. The scrimmage is really important for these guys to see someone else out there and not see the same people every day. It’s easy to look at 7v7 and say, ‘This guy is pretty good and this guy is pretty good.’ But when violence threatens, that changes a lot. “
Quotable: Senior Lineman Lavon Johnson
“I just let things go through back to school, academics and all, and make that my top priority.”
Sr. OL / DL Lavon Johnson, Sr. OL / DL David Platt, Jr. RB / DB Travis Foster, Sr. OL / LB Peyton Elliot, Sr. LB / TE Colby Reyburn, Jr. WR / OLB Griffin Patridge, Jr. DB Matt Keyes.
Jr. OL / DL Mitchell Miller, Sr. OL / DL Michael Synder, Jr. QB Conner Aquino, So. WR / DB Nathan Schultz, So. WR / DB Armonie Torres, Jr. WR / LB Alistair Stewart-Smith, Jr. RB / LB Caiden Schaffer.
Sr. OL / DL Doyen Kim, So. WR / DB Nasir McLean, Fr. WR / DB Jareel Calhoun, Fr. OL / DL Braheem Battle, So. TE / DL Rajan Stevens, So. TE / DL Harry Stewart-Smith, So. OL / DL Naquon Godfrey, So. OL / DL Nick Basilage, Jr. TE / LB Ethan Hosak.
Catholic Fundamentals in Allentown Central
Conference: Eastern Pennsylvania, Southern Department.
Trainer: Tim McGorry (third season, 14-7).
The last five seasons:
Record 2020: 6: 2 overall, 3: 1 division.
2019: 8-5, 4-4.
2018: 3-8, 1-7.
2017: 6-5, 6-2.
2016: 9-2, 8-0.
Their home: the J. Birney Crum Stadium.
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Stephen Miller can be reached at [email protected].