Lakewood QB sees big things on horizon for his team

Staff Writer

By mike white

Andrew Nelson has been around to watch the transformation of the Lakewood High School football program. As a sophomore three years ago, Nelson was elected to be the starting quarterback. After three consecutive losses, the young signal caller was replaced.

Nelson didn’t get down on himself. He worked hard during the summer between his sophomore and junior years. Last year, he played an important role in leading the Piners to an 8-2 record, which included a Shore Conference divisional title. It marked the first time in 35 years Lakewood had claimed a divisional title. But it represented more than that.

"I think this team is capable of accomplishing the same things that we did last year," Nelson said. "Teams no longer look at Lakewood and think that it is going to be an easy game. I think we saw some of that attitude last year. We surprised a lot of people. Sometimes we made mental mistakes early in games and needed to wait until the fourth quarter to put them away."

Nelson is hoping the Piners don’t need to rely on late-game heroics as much this year. But with the loss of a couple of key players like all-state defensive end Thomas Carroll, who is headed for Miami University, and running back Rashawn Haynes, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards, Lakewood needs more of a team effort to succeed.

And from what Nelson and teammate Craig Gunter, a two-way lineman and co-captain, can see so far, members of the 2000 squad are putting in time and effort to make this season one to remember.

"There are no individuals on this team," Gunter said. "This needs to be a team effort. A lot of the players and coaches have been pushing hard so far. I feel really good about this season. I think that we are going to have a great year.

"There’s no question that Tom Carroll and Haynes did a solid job for us last season. But I feel we have a lot of talent coming back here. We need to pull together. If we keep working hard we should be OK. I make it known that we need to practice hard. The way you practice is the way you play in real games."

Gunter is comfortable with the coaching change. Dave Oizerowitz replaces Nick Eremita as head coach. Eremita stepped down a few weeks ago after taking an administrative job in the Keansburg School District. Oizerowitz has been an assistant coach at Lakewood for the last four seasons.

"We’re glad that Coach Oizerowitz got the job," Gunter said. "He’s not a brand new coach coming in and trying to put in a new system. He is familiar with all the players and we know him. He’s been with this program for a couple of years now."

Nelson was sad to see Eremita leave, but he did say Oizerowitz was a good choice for the job. After all, Oizerowitz and Eremita devised the Florida State style of offense that has been in place. It is an offensive set that complements Nelson’s athletic abilities. At 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, Nelson can run and pass. His ability to make good decisions defines him as one of the top option quarterbacks in the state. In Oizerowitz’s estimation, Nelson is the best quarterback in the Shore Conference.

"He is such a talented athlete," Oizerowitz said. "Anytime you return a three-year starter at a position, it is a major plus. He knows the system well; he can do a lot of things. There is no doubt he is an offensive weapon for us. He can hurt teams in a lot of different ways; he can make big plays."