Sunday, November 22, 2020 | 11:01 am
Two unmistakable stalwarts on the Baldwin football team this season were senior standouts Connor Lavelle and CJ Robbins.
Both were four-year-old starters and team leaders for the Fighting Highlanders, who ended up 2-3.
Lavelle, a 185-pound six-foot receiver / defense back, was one of the WPIAL’s main receivers.
He was a recruit from Lehigh and finished with 28 catches for 334 yards and four scores in five games. He also led the team in scoring, kickoff and kick return, and defensively shared the team leader in tackles.
Lavelle won eight receptions for 108 yards against Hollidaysburg, seven for 67 against Seneca Valley and six for 93 against Norwin. He scored in all three games.
“I thought we had made a lot of progress as a team throughout the year,” said Lavelle. “We were hit by a lot of adversity and never got back to it. I feel like the future of Baldwin football is really bright. I will always be proud to say that I have played football for Baldwin and I would like to thank the fans and the Baldwin community for the endless support. “
Over the past three seasons, Lavelle, also a varsity starter in basketball since his freshman year, totaled 60 receptions for 713 yards and six touchdowns.
In defense, he scored 152 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, seven pass break-ups, one interception and five fumbles, including a 30-yard TD return.
He was recruited to play for safety by Lehigh, a member of the Patriot League. He has received more than a dozen Division I offers, including Dartmouth, Yale and Louisiana-Monroe.
“I always love to get the ball and score, but defense has my heart,” said Lavelle, who plans to add baseball to his track and field program in the spring. “I feel like I have more potential in defense, and I just love to hit people.”
Despite the fact that the Fighting Highlanders didn’t make it to the 2020 WPIAL playoffs, Lavelle enjoys a fond memory of the season.
One of his teammates in defense was his younger brother Evan, a junior tight end / outside linebacker.
“It was certainly a very cool experience,” said Elder Lavelle. “Not many people can say they played next to their brother.”
Connor Lavelle manned a linebacker position as a junior and is timed 4.56 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He has also played alongside Robbins, a 6-foot wide receiver / defensive back, throughout his career.
Robbins has scored eight interceptions in the past three seasons, including six (and three scores) as a sophomore in 2018. He was among the team leaders in several other defensive categories.
“This year we’ve all grown up a lot and learned that we have to play as a team,” said Robbins. “We had one goal, but covid didn’t allow us to fully achieve that goal.”
Robbins has a 4.5 in 40. He was Baldwin’s second best receiver this year with nine catches for 243 yards, averaging 27 yards per receive.
Lavelle and Robbins, who plan to pursue his career in college, were ranked one-two in all-purpose rankings.
“My career with Baldwin was fun,” he said. “In my freshman year, I played special teams and started two games. I was nervous because I was only 14, but I had to do what I had to do. (Ex-Baldwin) head coach (Loran) Cooley used to preach, ‘Next man up’. My second year was my favorite year. I ended up with six interceptions and three pick-sixes. “
Robbins has so far been recruited by the likes of Pitt, Albany and St. Francis.
“I’m trying to get more looks,” he said. “I work really hard with my coaches to get a chance. I plan to go to college, get my degree and continue my athletic career. “
Wherever he lands, Robbins, who will join Baldwin’s athletics program in the spring of four, will most likely take a position on the defensive side of the ball, particularly in the secondary.
“I like defense more than insult,” said Robbins. “I love to be able to hit people and not be hit. But when I’m in offense to make a play, I’ve always gotten out and about and helped my team get the job done. “
Dorien Ford, a 6-4, 300 pound senior lineman and Pitt recruit, was also a four-year starter at Baldwin.
The nationally recruited Ford bagged the Baldwin defense and blocked a kick this season.
Ford was ranked No. 10 senior in the state by Rivals.com and No. 25 defensive tackle in the country. Pitt, Penn State, and West Virginia were among the many schools offering scholarships.
The last time a Baldwin player was recruited as strongly as Ford was in 2006 when Jason Pinkston played with Pitt before embarking on a three-year NFL career with Cleveland.
Ford, Robbins and Lavelle were all conference selections in 2019.
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