MELROSE — In the midst of what looks like an 8-man state championship season, Melrose’s Sammy Lawrence has suddenly had to deal with a heavy dose of reality.
The soft-spoken junior lost his mother, Ellen Maria Scott Lawrence, from cervical cancer on Oct. 21.
Buffaloes coach Dickie Roybal was surprised to find Sammy Lawrence back on the practice field two days later.
“I didn’t expect him to play (that soon),” Roybal said. “He showed up for practice on Thursday (Oct. 23) and played on Friday. He’s the type of kid that just loves football.”
Lawrence has been a big reason the Buffs are racing through the season as the No. 1 team in 8-man with an 11-0 record. Melrose hosts district rival Floyd (9-2) in an 8-man playoff semifinal tonight.
He was moved from guard to linebacker on offense about a month into the season, and has responded with nine touchdown receptions. On defense, he plays a variety of positions, mainly linebacker.
“It depends on what defense we’re in,” Lawrence said.
His mother was diagnosed about 18 months ago. Lawrence said she was already at stage 4, but she showed signs of improvement at times.
“We did everything we could for her,” he said.
He now lives with a sister, Lonee Downey, in Melrose.
“It’s always on my mind,” he said. “I just say a little prayer before every game.”
The week his mother died, Lawrence caught two touchdown passes and returned an interception for a touchdown in an 82-6 win over Logan.
“It kind of helped me get back into things,” he said of playing football.
“I kind of block it out when I’m playing, but after the game’s over I know she’s there, watching.”
Roybal said on most days you’d have a tough time telling whether things are going well or not for Lawrence.
“The type of kid he is, he doesn’t show a lot of emotion,” Roybal said. “When you have someone going through that, you don’t worry much about football.”
The Buffs have already handily beaten the other three teams left in the playoffs, including a 60-0 win over Floyd two weeks ago.
Lawrence said this is no time to get overconfident.
“Coach does a good job of making sure we take each week one game at a time,” Lawrence said. “I think (Floyd) will be more ready (this time). They’ll be a lot tougher and more physical.”