Today at Eastern High School, the 30th annual D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association football championship will be played between Dunbar and Eastern. This Turkey Bowl features two of the city's top senior running backs in the Crimson Tide's James Lynch and Eastern's Lawrence Wade. In the second of two reports, The Washington Post today profiles Wade.
The only thing more impressive than Eastern running back Lawrence Wade's statistics is his speed. Once he explodes through the line of scrimmage and hits the open field, he runs away from defenses the way few high school running backs in the area can.
Wade has rushed for 2,164 yards on 253 carries and has scored 26 touchdowns in leading the No. 19 Ramblers (9-3) into today's D.C. Interscholastic Athletic Association championship game against No. 16 Dunbar. Kickoff for the 30th annual Turkey Bowl is set for 11 a.m. at Eastern.
A little perspective on those numbers: The yardage total marked only the second time a DCIAA back has broken the 2,000-yard barrier--Wade was the first to do it, amassing 2,092 yards in 1998. He accumulated this season's yardage total despite being hobbled by a sore Achilles' tendon that forced him to sit during the second half of at least four of Eastern's games.
And about that speed? One more number: He runs the 40 in an eye-popping 4.4 seconds.
The Achilles' has not plagued Wade in recent weeks and the injury has healed to the point that Eastern Coach Burnell Irby might even allow the 6-foot, 185-pounder a few downs at linebacker. Wade has not played much on defense recently because Irby feared making the injury worse.
"It's his last game," Irby said. "And he's my best football player. Obviously, Lawrence is the focal point of our offense. But he won't be doing any good sitting on the sideline when our defense could use him."
Perhaps Wade's most astounding performance this season came in the Ramblers' biggest game. In Eastern's 54-24 victory over Wilson in a DCIAA semifinal Nov. 13, he had 308 yards on 29 carries and scored four times to send Eastern to today's title game.
Hard to bring down? Ask Wilson, which had at least three would-be tacklers shed by Wade on touchdown runs of 53 and 54 yards. Against defending champion Dunbar, he will be playing against an equally dominant back in James Lynch.
"I don't feel any pressure," Wade said. "If the offensive line does their job and I do mine, I know we'll be okay."
Wade, who admires NFL running back Warrick Dunn of Tampa Bay and the retired Barry Sanders, formerly of Detroit, says he leads by example. "I bring leadership," he said. "I'm good at getting the team up, keeping them calm and motivating everybody."
Wade says running the 200 and 400 meters for Eastern's track team has helped him with his speed. And he cites running hills and hours of weight training every day during the summer under the watchful eye of his stepfather, Karl Andrews, as another reason for his breakaway speed.
"His attitude is wonderful, he wants to be the best and he works hard to be the best," said Karl Andrews, who graduated from Dunbar, where he played with current Crimson Tide coach Craig Jefferies. "But I'm most proud of Lawrence's character."
As a child, Wade used to carry a football around with him wherever he went.
"He works hard and he's very determined," his mother, Retta Robinson-Andrews, said. "When he sets his mind to it, he does it. When his team is losing, he plays even harder. He's so competitive. I remember when he played his very first game, for the boys club when he was 8 years old--he cried because his team lost."
Robinson-Andrews and Wade's grandmother, Betty Robinson, have raised Lawrence in Northeast and are fixtures at Eastern games.
"I didn't take part in sports when I was in school," Robinson-Andrews said. "So I'm living my life all over again through him. He's received many awards, but he never has let it affect him. . . . He's just a respectful, mannerly young man. I always say to myself, 'If he could only apply himself academically the way he does on the football field, he would be on the honor role.' "
Wade has not yet committed to a college, but he says there has been interest from a few top-level programs (which he declined to name). "Right now, I'm just focused on getting my SAT score up and winning this championship," he said, referring to the Scholastic Assessment Test. "Then we'll see about college. I do want to play."
The key to today's game, Wade says, will be whether his offensive line can open up holes. They are, after all, going up against what many consider to be the best defensive line in the league in Dunbar.
"The line is going to play a big role," he said. "They did a great job all year. We just need them to step up one more time."