Crawford, Patrick to lead young Lansing team on both sides of the ball
After graduating a large class of seniors last season, Lansing's football team will field nine seniors this season. While there will be a swell of youth and largely inexperienced athletes taking the field for the Lions this season, they will have two of their biggest leaders on the field the majority of the time.
Caden Crawford (quarterback and linebacker) and Richie Patrick (wide receiver and defensive back) are among those seniors and will have huge roles to play in leading the Lions on both sides of the ball.
"Honestly, it's not that much different," Patrick said. "It definitely puts some pressure on us because we're examples for the team on both sides. So if we're down, the team is down, so we really just have to watch our emotions and reflect on everyone else."
Lansing is coming off a 5-4 season of ups and downs that saw the Lions start 4-1 and finish 1-3. Head coach Dylan Brown is entering his fourth season with Lansing.
In addition to throwing and running for touchdowns, Crawford was also the Lions' second-leading tackler last season and will move from outside linebacker to middle linebacker. Brown said the move will allow the defense to be a lot more creative.
"If you have ever played the NCAA Football video game, you just take your best player on defense and put them over the middle, eight yards off the ball," Brown said. "That's kind of what we're doing with Caden. That way, he is free to do a lot of stuff, like blitzing off the edge or up the middle."
Crawford said he was unsure of making the switch, but wants to help the team any way he can.
"At first, I was a bit hesitant," Crawford said, "but after going over it with the coaches, I feel it's most beneficial to the team and the best fit for me."
The University of Iowa commit will be under center for his second season and will have Patrick, as well as junior tight end Nate Expose, as his primary targets. The Lions will have a new face in the backfield with sophomore Tyrone Butler.
"He has been super impressive," Brown said. "It's not just his physical ability but his leadership. He's not afraid to get after it and do what's best for everybody."
Even without speedster wideout Malik Benson — who graduated in May — Crawford said he feels good about his offensive options.
"We've been throwing a lot together this year," Crawford said. "I think we've really built a connection with knowing our strengths and what we're going to do each play. It's a lot of fun throwing to Richie."
Brown said the loss of Benson will change some of what the Lions are able to do this season but Crawford will still have plenty of options in Lansing's offense.
"Nobody can replicate what Malik did," Brown said. "We'll try to do some similar things but we definitely have to be more precise about who and where we're throwing to."
The biggest obstacle for Lansing to overcome will be a complete refresh of the offensive line that will feature zero varsity experience.
The Lions' defense will feature Crawford in the middle and Patrick on the back end with fellow senior Calvin Sholey on the defensive line with junior Jamale Williams.
Despite all of the turnover and lack of experience, Patrick said the team has gained a lot of confidence working together through the offseason and summer.
"I feel like we have potential to be good this year," Patrick said. "The schedule is the same, teams lost a lot of seniors, we lost some seniors. But I feel like we're coming closer as a team. I feel like we have better chemistry than most teams this year. And I feel like that'll carry us to a pretty good season."
The Lions open the season Sept. 3 at home against Schlagle and then face Turner at home Sept. 10. Lansing's first road game is scheduled for Sept. 17 at Shawnee Heights.