The senior, one of Marietta’s team captains this season, hasn’t been known for padding up the numbers on defense, but Holy Cross will be gaining a player who is known for making key plays at opportune times.
Ward is also a lead blocker on offense when the Blue Devils are in short-yardage situations.
One of Ward’s most notable plays was his 99-yard interception return for a touchdown that helped Marietta score 30 second-quarter points, en route to a 58-46 victory against South Cobb. Another came in Marietta’s 49-31 win over Kennesaw Mountain, when Ward recovered a blocked punt and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown.
“He understands his assignments and executes his assignments,” Marietta coach Scott Burton said. “Lawton has a good sense of the game. He never deviates from his assignments, and yet he can make plays outside of his own assignments. When a big play is to be made, No. 21 is pretty close to the ball.”
Efforts like those helped playoff-bound Marietta finish the regular season with an 8-2 overall record, including 6-2 in Region 4AAAAAA. The Blue Devils beat Harrison last Friday to secure a berth and will travel to Lovejoy on Friday.
Ward chose football over wrestling, a sport in which he was a region and state champion last year at 170 pounds.
Burton said one thing that likely drew Ward to Holy Cross was the Worcester, Mass., college’s high academic reputation, and that it would be an ideal place where he could be challenged academically while playing in the Patriot League, a Football Championship Subdivision conference.
Ward has maintained a strong GPA at Marietta and has served more than 100 hours of community-service projects away from the field, including church mission trips to Jamaica and Honduras.
“Lawton is a coach’s dream,” Burton said. “He’s really intense and leads by example every day. He’s just the epitome of what student-athletes should be.
“The thing about Lawton that makes him special, it’s never about him. That doesn’t come easy for a lot of kids. Lawton and Holy Cross is a perfect marriage. They expect you to be a student-athlete, and that’s who Lawton is.”