By Hector Longo
---- — LAWRENCE — The numbers, 9 of 11 for 134 yards and two TD passes, plus a running touchdown in Lawrence High’s 28-0 Thanksgiving Eve shutout of Salem, dictate that senior Louis Rosa breezed through the final football exam.
If you spent a minute watching the Lancer football season unfold, you’d understand why the kid aced every single week — not on the field but in the hearts and souls of every single one of his teammates.
“Look at Luis, the season he’s gone through and he’s out there, doing what he’s doing, that’s pretty amazing,” said fellow Lancer senior D.J. Gonzalez. “Two TD passes in a win on Senior night. That incredible for him.”
Rosa opened the season as the starting QB but found himself pushed for the job when sophomore Nelson Valerio transferred into Lawrence from Milwaukee.
“That job was mine until I got hurt in the North Andover game,” said Rosa, who stands just 5-foot-6 and weighs 160 pounds. “’Milwaukee’ came in and stepped up. He was excellent, and that was that. He took over. “Losing the job was tough, and I really didn’t know how to deal with it.”
To his credit, Valerio is no slouch. In fact, with an 11 of 18, 149-yard night, he is now the all-time Lawrence, single-season passing yardage leader, finishing at 2,055 yards in the 3-8 campaign.
Still, watching football in his senior season pushed Rosa’s patience over and over again.
“He’s my friend and teammate,” said Rosa, a 3.5 student with a 1,500 on the three-pronged SAT. “I tried to help him as much as I could. And I’m really proud of what he’s accomplished.”
Last night in the victory over winless (0-11) Salem, the Lancer coaching staff was torn. Sure, they felt they owed Rosa a start. But Valerio was chasing the 2,000-yard passing mark, and sitting him would be unfair. So they compromised. “The coaches told me I would start, and how I played would determine how long I played,” said Rosa, noting that was a bit of pressure. “Of course, there was pressure, but after what I’d been through this season, the pressure was nothing.”
Rosa hit wideouts Franger Baez and George Urena for long TDs. The bookend receivers each dominated with eight catches. Baez piled up 135 receiving yards and Urena 97.
Urena, with 54 catches on the year, surpassed the 1,000-yard receiving mark.
After a season of special teams struggles with blocked kicks and bad snaps, Lawrence got a perfect 4 for 4 in PATs by junior Xavier Santiago, who also managed a handsome 36 yards a punt on the night.
“X was on fire,” said Rosa. “His leg was hot.”
Guys like Jaddiel Polanco, Israel Santiago, Chris Pena and Nathaniel Cruz flew to the football for the Lawrence defense, but first-year Blue Devils coach Adam Gagne understood where this one was lost.
“They’re very good. They’re athletic and they’re very big and tough up front,” said Gagne. “They took a kid like Jason Martinez (11 carries, 14 yards) away from us, and he’s such a huge part of our offense.”
The Blue Devils had chances, but only got inside the Lancer 20 once all night and were halted at the 2 on fourth-down when Cruz lowered the boom on a vicious sack. Gagne was clearly disappointed with the result and the winless season, but he’s certain that Salem will be back.
“I haven’t really thought about it that much, but there have definitely been some positives this year,” added Gagne. “These seniors you saw out there tonight worked as hard as can be. I wish I could have them all for four more years.”
While an interesting game, in which Gagne is absolutely enamored with playing, there is some uncertainty as we head into the future. The new Massachusetts schedule and playoff proposal has plaved this game into a state of flux.
“The game has everything,” said Gagne. “It kicks off the Thanksgiving season. It’s Mass. vs. New Hampshire. It’s Lawrence-Salem. You couldn’t ask for much more.”
Lawrence 28, Salem 0
Salem (0-11) : 0 0 0 0 — 0
Lawrence (3-8): 7 7 7 7 — 28
Franger Baez 30 pass from Louis Rosa (Xavier Santiago kick) 2:01
Jeremiah Damiron 1 run (Santiago kick) 6:38
George Urena 19 pass from Rosa (Santiago kick) 4:41
Rosa 1 run (Santiago kick) 2:37
RUSHING: S — Ryan Nichols 8-49, Jason Martinez 11-14, Brendan Quatieri 1-2, Jacob Lakos 3-(-12), Rashid Adigun 1-(-1); L — Louis Rosa 6-12, Jeremiah Damiron 4-1, John Roy 1-9, Nelson Valerio 5-19, Chris Pena 3-16, Justin Flores 6-36, Franger Baez 1-7, Edison Urena 2-(-4)
PASSING: S — Nichols 4-8-1, 52; Lakos 3-5-1, 35; L — Rosa 9-11-0, 134; Valerio 11-18-0, 149
RECEIVING: S — Jake Poore 2-2, Jack Hartman 2-39, Quatieri 1-35, Adigun 2-11; L — George Urena 8-97, Baez 8-135, Elvis Pena 1-16, Roy 1-(-2), Damiron 2-37