By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Three wins in two years may not seem like much but for the Lewis & Clark football team it's a sign of good things to come.
Gunn High grad Tucker Laurence led the Pioneers to a 2-7 mark in 2009, leading the team with 589 rushing yards, 1,359 passing yards and eight touchdowns. The redshirt junior quarterback hopes to help bring the Pioneers to a higher level.
In 2005, Lewis & Clark was forced to end its football season prematurely. Chris Sulages was hired the next year and has the program on the verge of a breakout season as the Pioneers prepare for their season opener Saturday night at Claremont.
"We play in the toughest Division III conference in the country," Sulages said. "We've experienced growth in a lot of ways, and most importantly we've done a better job of recruiting. There's a lot of support from the administration and athletic department that we couldn't do without."
Laurence, who also plays baseball at the school in Portland, OR, has developed right along with the program.
"He's a modern quarterback," Sulages said. "He can run, he can throw and he takes leadership of the team. The biggest thing is his down field throwing. He used to rely on his legs. Now he's more comfortable with his arm and he's a huge asset to us."
Sulages owns 75 percent of all Lewis & Clark football victories since the beginning of the 2004 season. It's a step in the right direction for a school looking for its first winning season since 1995, and its first conference title since 1989.
Laurence (6-1, 200) has been part of that effort. He had labrum surgery in his sophomore year, missing all of 2008, but has since developed strength and versatility.
"Last year it did take a while for him to get his arm back," Sulages said. "Since then he's gotten nothing but better."
In the past, the Pioneers would have to rely on four or five true freshmen coming in and starting right away. The team will still be young this year but there's the added bonus that those sophomore already have a year of experience.
"That's never happened before," Sulages said. "We have a bunch of young guys with some experience. That's the progression of the team and we're excited about starting the season."
Gunn grad Jasper Dean joined Laurence at Lewis & Clark. The freshman defensive lineman has been steadily improving, according to Sulages, and may get the opportunity to play right away.