Weight room work paying dividends for Loy Norrix football heading into 2022 season

KALAMAZOO, MI – When Lorenzo Robertson accepted the Kalamazoo Loy Norrix head football coach position in May 2021, he was more concerned with learning his players names than setting up an offseason weight lifting program.

This time around, Robertson has had more than three months to prepare for the season-opening kickoff, and the extra time has been well-spent for the second-year coach and his players.

“I feel like I just got there before the season started last year, so it’s been nice having a full offseason this time,” he said. “The difference now at this point in the buy-in, the trust factor that’s involved and the confidence in what we’re trying to do as a program on and off the field, in the weight room and in the classroom.”

Weight room attendance has more than doubled this offseason, Robertson said, and the team’s strength gains will play a key role on a squad that is looking to replace quarterback Tyler Roberts, who set the single-season school record for passing yards and touchdowns, and wideout Kevin Lucas, who set the record for receiving yards in a game.

“Between this team and last year, we’re stronger and bigger; not as fast or athletic as we were last year, so we’re going to be more of a run-based offense, and the difference is our strength because we did get a full offseason in the weight room,” Robertson said. “I found out that historically Loy Norrix did not have a good weight lifting program, and that’s what I brought with me when I got hired, and I was able to implement it with a full offseason, so we got stronger.”

Loy Norrix head football coach Lorenzo Robertson. (Joel Bissell | MLive.com)Joel Bissell | MLive.com

Loy Norrix has lost 16 consecutive games over the course of the last two seasons, but the players are hungry to snap that streak and have a decent shot at doing so in the opener against Delton Kellogg, a small-school team that defeated the Knights 34-30 to kick off the 2021 campaign.

But the players know a victory won’t happen without hard work over the summer.

“During the offseason, we always say, ‘Winning starts now.’ That’s when we start improving and figuring stuff out, and hopefully that translates to the season,” quarterback James Rocco said.

Loy Norrix senior James Rocco (5). (Joel Bissell | MLive.com)Joel Bissell | MLive.com

The added muscle has been especially apparent along the offensive and defensive lines, which return starters at every position and should form the strength of the Knights team in 2022.

Loy Norrix’s 2020 departure from the powerful Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference, means they’ll see smaller schools this season, which could result in more wins, but ultimately make it tougher to get into the playoffs, something the Knights haven’t done since Todd “T.J.” Duckett was running the ball back in 1997.

Still, reaching the postseason is something the Knights have on their mind in 2022, and Robertson said he thinks his team has it in them.

“The times that we’ve been together, we’ve talked about winning Game 1, and then winning the city championship and then making the playoffs for the first time in quite some time – making the playoffs and then hopefully making a run,” he said. “I believe we have that in this year’s team.”

Follow along for more info on this year’s Loy Norrix football team.

Head coach: Lorenzo Robertson, 2nd season (0-9 record)

Key returners: James Rocco (Sr. QB), Zach Lacey (Sr. RB/LB), Dylan Herington (Sr. OL), Carlton Freeman (Sr. LB)

Top newcomers: Aquan Foster (Soph. WR), Cedric Huntley (Jr. WR)

2021 review: In its first nine-game season since leaving the SMAC, Loy Norrix was a lot more competitive against the smaller-school schedule, but couldn’t quite close out games, enduring narrow defeats to Delton Kellogg (34-30), Livonia Clarenceville (14-8), Buchanan (23-20) and Lansing Eastern (26-20). Quarterback Tyler Roberts put together an impressive season and was named the state’s top boys multisport athlete in Class A, while Kevin Lucas gained over 700 yards and caught 10 touchdowns from the receiver position.

2022 outlook: Quarterback James Rocco moves from receiver to signal caller this year, and he’ll be a primary beneficiary of a veteran offensive line, while fellow senior Zach Lacey could be in for a big year behind a more run-oriented attack. Junior Cedric Huntley is a basketball star that showed promise as a wide receiver after joining the team late last year, and Aquan Foster is another promising young pass catcher that could be in for a big season. But the biggest key for the Knights will be stepping up on defense, after allowing 36 points per game last season.

“We scored a lot of points, and our quarterback and receivers last year set school records, we just couldn’t stop anybody defensively,” Robertson said. “This year, hopefully the story will be different. We have some new installs going in and a new philosophy defensively, so hopefully that will be our biggest change.”

2022 schedule:

Thursday, Aug. 25: at Delton Kellogg

Thursday, Sept. 1: vs. Kalamazoo Central, 5 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 9: at Livonia Clarenceville

Friday, Sept. 16: vs. Lansing Everett

Friday, Sept. 23: vs. Buchanan

Friday, Sept. 30: vs. Dowagiac

Friday, Oct. 7: vs. Ottawa Lake Whiteford

Friday, Oct. 14: at Richland Gull Lake

Friday, Oct. 21: at Lansing Eastern, 6 p.m.

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