Robinson Coach Mark Bendorf recognized Lucas Caparelli's potential before he ever played a down for the Rams.
Two years ago, when Robinson was preparing to face Oakton in the Virginia AAA Northern Region Division 6 championship game, Bendorf needed someone who could simulate elusive Cougars quarterback Pat Day in practice. Bendorf tapped Caparelli, a ninth-grader at the time, just weeks after he had been called up from the freshman team.
"Lucas gave our first team defense fits all week," Bendorf recalled. "That's when we knew we had something special."
Caparelli, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound junior, has indeed become the player Bendorf predicted. He is averaging 11 yards per carry this season, with 377 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 34 rushes in two games. His performance has helped Robinson (2-0) extend its regular season undefeated streak to 24 games heading into tonight's contest at Oakton (2-0).
With one of the region's top defenses, the Cougars hope to end the Rams' regular season reign. But Oakton must do something neither Langley nor Chantilly accomplished in their losses against Robinson this season: stop the Rams' ground attack. That means stopping Caparelli, who has the muscle to run over his opponents and the speed to run past them. Sometimes he displays both abilities on the same play.
"I'm versatile, that's probably the best way to describe me," Caparelli said. "I'm not a power back, but I can break tackles. And I'm not a scat back, but I have speed. I just do what I have to do to get yards."
Caparelli's strength and speed are the result of months of hard work during the offseason. Inspired by last fall's loss to Westfield in the regional final, Caparelli dedicated his summer to working out, combining a challenging regime of weight training, footwork drills and running hills at Robinson, both forward and backward.
"After losing the region championship again, that was a huge motivating factor for me," Caparelli said. "As soon as lacrosse season was over, that's all I thought about in the weight room and on the track -- getting back to regions and winning it all. . . . And Oakton eliminated us in lacrosse, so that will be in the back of my mind, too."
The intense training has not only aided Caparelli's play at running back, it's also made him better on defense and special teams by increasing his aerobic threshold, he said. That's an important point, because Caparelli rarely comes off the field. He lines up at safety, returns punts and kickoffs and plays on the kickoff team.
"He can do it all, on offense, defense, special teams," Oakton Coach Joe Thompson said. "We're going to have to put a lot of hats on him. He doesn't go down easy. He's a legitimate weapon on both sides of the ball."
Directions: From Washington, take I-66 West. Take Nutley Street exit north toward Vienna. Make a left at first light onto Virginia Center Parkway. At stop sign, proceed straight into school parking lot.