Lowell passes opening test

Rockwell’s surprising bomb gives ground-oriented Cardinals win overMills

MILLBRAE — Lowell’s vaunted ground-based, ball-control offense usually features about three plays — run up the middle, run off left tackle and run off right tackle.

That’s why it was so surprising that the defining play of their season-opening 20-10 victory over Mills came courtesy of quarterback Carter Rockwell’s seldom-used arm.

Rockwell’s 50-yard scoring strike to Enrique Ayalde with 10 seconds remaining in the first half gave Lowell a 12-10 lead, providing a drastic momentum shift the Cardinals would ride all second half.

“Well, it was definitely a pleasant surprise,” Lowell coach Danny Chan said of the touchdown pass. “I was kind of expecting Carter to just throw it away, but he definitely took advantage of the play call. When you run the ball as much as we do, we’re going to catch people off-guard with the occasional pass.”

Rockwell, whose lone completion for the game was the touchdown pass, was well aware of the scant opportunities he would get to air out the ball.

“I know my role on this team is to be a leader,” Rockwell said. “I’m not expecting to throw for 200 yards a game and two touchdowns, I’m here to make sure the offense runs well and we control the ball.”

The Cardinals got on the board first with a 14-play, game-opening drive that was capped off by Ayalde’s 1-yard scamper with 4:37 left in the first quarter that put them up 6-0.

Lowell was quickly matched by Mills on the next possession, with the Vikings getting a 27-yard touchdown run by Shawn Echols, plus a successful extra-point conversion to go ahead 7-6.

The Vikings stretched their lead to 10-6 after a 32-yard Lucas Hagberg field goal, but they would not regain the lead after Rockwell’s scoring strike right before the half.

Riding the offensive surge set forth by their late first-half score, the Lowell defense responded in abig way in the second half, holding Mills to just 59 yards of total offense, while forcing three Vikings turnovers.

“I think with this being the first game of the season, we came out a little nervous in the first half,” said Lowell senior captain Pat Schock, who plays tight end and defensive end. “But we stepped up out intensity after halftime, and really got after them defensively.”

The Cardinals tagged on a game-clinching score in the fourth quarter on Marcos Cronander’s 1-yard touchdown run, cementing their hard-fought victory.

“It was a big win for us,” Schock said. “But we know this is just one game. We’re taking baby steps and this is just the start for us.”

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