The King’s Academy has been firing on all cylinders, geez, since not long after Pete Lavorato took over the program in 2017.
The Knights had long been successful as the small fish in the small pond, but since Lavorato lost his first five games at the Sunnyvale campus in 2017, he has posted a 20-3 record, including a 2018 Central Coast Section Division V championship and five straight non-league wins to preface this TKA’s inaugural season in the Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division.
Daily Journal Athlete of the Week Jayden Frazier enjoyed the most prolific week of his three-year varsity career in TKA’s fifth straight win, a 42-19 triumph over visiting Cochrane High School from Alberta, Canada. The senior running back racked up 237 total yards, including 22 carries for a career-high 203 yards and five touchdowns.
“I was all up for it,” Frazier said. “I was ready for it. I was really interested in playing a Canadian team. I had never played a Canadian team before. I was ready.”
Lavorato’s Canadian roots had much to do with drawing an opponent from north of the border. A former Canadian Football League All-Star, and five-time Grey Cup champion with the Edmonton Eskimos, Lavorato is CFL legend.
The road trip took some doing for Cochrane, and not just in terms of travel. The 16-time provincial champions in Alberta are accustomed to playing football by Canadian rules, with longer fields and a different scoring system. Cochrane, which entered play Friday with a 4-1 record, adapted to American rules to play TKA.
And after TKA senior Zach Lewman opened the game with a 68-yard kickoff return to the Cochrane 10-yard line, Frazier went to work scoring his first of five touchdowns on the night. He scored all but one of the TDs by the Knights, who added a second-quarter scoring pass from quarterback Antonio Gonzalez to Kevin Sielski.
“He’s in great shape,” Lavorato said. “He really got himself in great shape and has so far been injury free, which has been great.”
Frazier said he considers being injury free a blessing after the end of his junior season. In 2018, he was running in tandem with then-senior Bralyn Lux — now a redshirt freshman at Fresno State — but after logging three carries in the CCS championship game, he hobbled off with a knee injury.
Not that Frazier let the injury get in the way of the postgame celebration, as the Knights — fueled by Lux’s immortal 331 yards rushing — were crowned CCS champions for the first time in program history.
“He was very happy,” Lavorato said. “He was all about the team. And he’s like that. … If you look at Jayden when someone else scores, he’s jumping up and down just like when he scores.”
What followed was an excruciating offseason for Frazier. It took him more than four months before he was able to jog, he said. And he got a mighty scare when he was misdiagnosed with a torn ACL. Not until he received a second opinion did he learn the extent of the damage to his knee was much less severe, a lateral collateral ligament sprain.
“I was relieved,” Frazier said. “I was more confident, and God blessed me with another chance to get ready for the next season.”
This was not Frazier’s first brush with injury.
A native of San Jose, Frazier was recruited to play at TKA by former head coach Michael Johnson. Two games into Frazier’s freshman season with the junior-varsity team, however, he got hurt in a game against Branham-San Jose and missed the rest of the year.
When he returned as a sophomore, TKA had a new coach in Lavorato, who made the change from running the program at Sacred Heart Prep from 2003-17. It was a fortuitous turn for Frazier, though, who under Johnson’s spread offense stood to see less playing time with Lux ahead of him in the one-running back system. When Lavorato arrived, he installed the fly offense, which didn’t immediately sit well with Frazier. But Lavorato ultimately won him over.
“I feel like [Lavorato] is like a second father to me,” Frazier said. “He really helped me through my sophomore and junior and senior years. Ever since he’s been here, I’ve been really thankful he’s my coach.”
Despite the 23-point disparity on the scoreboard Friday night, it was actually the closest outcome TKA has seen this season. Cochrane, with 19 points, outscored the Knights’ four previous opponents combined. Christopher, Monta Vista Christian-Watsonville, Homestead and Fremont-Oakland tallied a cumulative 18 points.
Lavorato said Cochrane assistant coach Tom Forzani gave him a little grief following the game, saying it would have been a much closer outcome had they played by Canadian rules. There was quite some kinship in that ribbing, however, as Forzani — a former CFL wide receiver with the Calgary Stampeders — and Lavorato not only played against one another for many years during their professional careers, but were teammates at Utah State University.
Now comes the big test for TKA in moving into PAL Bay Division play. The Knights open league play this Friday in hosting Burlingame.
“We’re looking really good,” Frazier said. “We’re just focusing more on practice, giving our all in practice so we can fight on Fridays.”