Was it Saint Nick in the summer?
Not exactly. Lutheran North football coach Carl Reed was delivering the final piece of last season’s state championship puzzle.
Reed rolled up on current and former members of his coaching staff, his family, friends and principal with the prized token of last year’s success.
Which is exactly where Reed wants to leave all the title talk — in the past.
“That’s behind us,” Reed said. “This team is not a champion. Some of them were part of a team that won it. You’ve got to move on from that.”
This story was originally published here.
The No. 1 small school in the STLhighschoolsports.com preseason rankings, Lutheran North (14-0) shed significant talent from last season when it won its sixth state title and first since 1999, but the stable is full of standouts waiting their turn.
The most prominent returner from last season is senior defensive end Travion Ford (6-foot-4, 235 pounds). One of the most sought after recruits at his position in his class, Ford verbally committed to Missouri. He’s packed some serious muscle on his frame this offseason and has stepped into more of a leadership role in his second year with the program. He’s expected to follow in the footsteps of recent former Lutheran North standouts Ronnie Perkins and Antonio Doyle Jr.
If he gets the chance.
The coronavirus pandemic has put in question when Lutheran North, or any football team in St. Louis County, will have an opportunity to play games. The St. Louis County Department of Public Health has maintained youth sports remain in the Phase 2 protocol, which means there can be groups of up to 20 athletes and two coaches working together at the same time. Contact drills are allowed, but scrimmages and games remain off limits.
Ford has said he plans to graduate from Lutheran North a semester early and enroll at Mizzou in the spring. It would be a shame for area football fans if they never got to see him at the peak of his powers. Despite missing three games as a junior following his transfer from Lutheran St. Charles, Ford made 69 tackles, 20 tackles for loss and nine sacks.
But Ford is just the tip of the iceberg that is Lutheran North’s program. The junior class is full of high level talent. Junior running back Ali Wells (6-0, 170) has 11 offers including Auburn, Florida State, Illinois, Michigan State, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Texas Tech.
Junior cornerback Toriano Pride (5-10, 170) has 21 scholarship offers from the likes of Auburn, Florida State, Illinois, Missouri, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon and Tennessee. Junior safety Caldra Williford (5-10, 160) has picked up offers from Michigan State, Minnesota, Oregon, West Virginia and more.
But offers don’t win football games.
“Everything starts up front with the offensive and defensive lines,” Reed said.
Lutheran North brings back some serious beef on its offensive line. Senior center Jaylin Knox (5-10, 300), senior Justen Richardson (6-1, 260), senior Clayton Lyles (6-2, 340) junior Khari Loggins (6-3, 250) and junior Josiah James (5-10, 200) all saw significant action last season as the Crusaders overpowered their opponents on the ground.
Wells rushed for 840 yards and 16 touchdowns. Junior quarterback Brian Brown (5-11, 150) rushed for 479 yards and nine touchdowns, too. Junior Jaylin Carson (5-11, 170) has been banged up his freshman and sophomore seasons, but Reed believes he’s going to really show what he can do this season. Reed compared him to the Crusaders recent slew of NCAA Division I running backs Donovan Marshall (Arkansas State), Isaiah Azubuike (Arkansas State) and Canaan Brooks (South Dakota).
“He’s healthy and he’s ready to go,” Reed said.
Brown gives the Crusaders something they haven’t had the last several seasons – the legitimate threat of a passing game. As a sophomore Brown completed 111 of his 171 passes for 2,042 yards, 26 touchdowns and was intercepted three times.
“He’s a very effective passer,” Reed said. “His IQ is high. He can run the offense.”
Catching passes from Brown will be a wide receiver group that includes Williford, senior Jerrell Carter (5-11, 165), junior Jaylin Carson (5-11, 170) and sophomores Eric Reedus, Jon Van Hook and freshman Jackson Sommerville (5-11, 155).
Carter led the returning group with six receptions for 129 yards and three touchdowns last season.
Ford leads the defense up front. He’s joined by senior Terrance Fuller (6-3, 210) who had 54 tackles, nine tackles for loss and six sacks and junior Jaylen Banks (6-4, 265) who’ll be at defensive tackle.
Senior Chris Childs (5-10, 220) returns at linebacker after he made 88 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and two sacks. Junior Makai Patton (6-1, 215) transferred in from Pacific, where he was credited with 67 tackles and four sacks last year.
Carson will see time at linebacker along with sophomore Rico Merriweather (5-10, 160) and Elijah Smith-Frye (5-10, 170).
The defensive secondary is stacked as that’s where you’ll find Pride, Wells, Williford, Brown and junior TJ Stokes (5-8, 160). Reed is very much looking forward to letting these guys loose on a live opponent. They have made an impression on him.
“We have one of the best secondaries in the country,” Reed said. “Everybody wants to throw the ball, that’s all the rage right now. If you can beat us by throwing the ball, I’ll tip my cap to you.”
Handling kicking duties is Jacob Fuller (5-9, 175).
Reed said he doesn’t plan on having a punter this season because the plan is to not punt.
“We’re not going to punt, we’re going for it every time,” Reed said.