Lance Lawson is always the wild card.
Over the last four years, especially the last two, that has usually meant he has come up aces.
It’s just a matter of where on the field he is going to do it from – in the slot, behind the quarterback, out of the shotgun – and whether it is going to be his arm or his legs, vision and strength.
The Red Mountain senior has had a fantastic career that he and the Mountain Lions (10-2) hope to extend one more game after Friday’s 6A Conference semifinal game against Chandler (10-2) at Hamilton.
“It was important to get back to the semifinals after we came up short last year,” he said. “We are looking to get to that state game and we have to be very focused this week and give it all we got.”
It is something Lawson has done from the first time he stepped on the field as a freshman.
Giving it all he’s got is one of Lawson’s traits and why has become one of the most dynamic offensive players in recent years not only at Red Mountain but in the state.
There are not many athletes that have come through the Arizona ranks that finished their careers with 1,433 yards passing, 3,036 yards rushing and 1,144 yards receiving and 69 total touchdowns (22 TD passes, 36 rushing, 11 receiving).
The opposition knows he is going to be a big part of whatever Red Mountain does on offense and he still produces.
Defensive coordinators talk about him – probably even in their sleep – all week, the defense points out No. 14 before every play and they key on him as much as possible.
He is basically stalked by everyone on the other side, and yet it seemingly doesn’t matter most weeks.
“We put a lot on him and he usually comes through,” said Red Mountain coach Mike Peterson, who began the year saying they were going to try and be less Lance-centric.
“We’ve spread it around more than last year, and that was by design. He can do a lot of things, but there is such a thing as too much. I think he is pretty fresh and that’s important at this time of year.”
This time around it is the third-seeded Wolves trying to slow Lawson. He missed the meeting in August, but he had a good game (147 passing, 130 rushing) in 2016 against the Wolves in a 34-10 Red Mountain loss.
“I didn’t get a chance to play against them this year, but they have a great defense,” he said. “They got us last year. They’re the state champs so we have to beat them to get where we want to go.”
Lawson, who has a handful offers including one from the University of Arizona, has grown into a leadership role with the Mountain Lions.
When he was a freshman and sophomore, Lawson was more of a playmaker and let it do his talking. Now, he clearly has the ear of the team as he and the rest of the senior class attempt to get Red Mountain back to the championship game for the first time since 2001.
“Growing up I was not much of a talker,” said Lawson, who also plays defense about 10 snaps a game. “I didn’t say much as a freshman and sophomore. I feel more comfortable around my teammates and speak up when I need to on and off the field.”
Now as his record-breaking career nears an end he reflected a little bit after the quarterfinal win over Westview with hopes of playing two more games.
“It means the world to me to be part of this team,” he said. “It has always been my dream to play high school football. I don’t thank my family enough for all the support and sacrifices they’ve made for me. My mom (Bridgett) and dad (David) have been great.”
David was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the ninth round of the 1990 MLB Draft and played four years in the minors with the organization along with some independent ball through 1997.
Knowing what his father accomplished started Lawson down the path that led to the most prolific career in the 30 years of Red Mountain football.
“I always looked up to him and wanted to do some of things he accomplished,” Lance said. “I want to keep playing as long as I can and never have any regret so I play as hard as I can every play.”
– Jason P. Skoda is a senior writer for MyNewsMesa.com. Send Mesa-based story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.