Lavender steps up as CR girls’ soccer coach

Dwayne Lavender

CAMDEN — Like a lot of people, Dwayne Lavender found it difficult to imagine Darrell Gravatt ever retiring as a soccer coach.

But when Gravatt did step down last month after 22 seasons as Caesar Rodney High’s girls’ coach, Lavender knew he wanted a shot at the job.

Caesar Rodney agreed, recently hiring the 38-year-old assistant as the Riders’ new head coach.

After 12 girls’ seasons with Gravatt — plus eight with CR’s boys’ program — Lavender said he’s looking forward to the challenge.

“Caesar Rodney soccer has been Darrell Gravatt for a very, very long time,” said Lavender. “So I think there was that bit of uncertainty.

“But it’s nice because I’ve been with Coach for 12 years. I have a great relationship with the current girls in the program. We had already talked about how the pieces were going to fit. Even though it was a bit of a surprise at first that he was stepping down, I knew that it was coming soon.

“I’m always prepared. It’s been pretty seamless actually.”

The first day of practice for spring sports is on March 2. The Riders are slated to open the season on March 24 at Lake Forest.

A former player at Glasgow High and Wesley College, Lavender is a physical education/health teacher at CR’s Fifer Middle School. He’s lived in Delaware all his life and played for his share of longtime coaches like Bob Bussiere, Steve Clark and Paul Booton.

Lavender started his coaching career as an assistant at Dover High under Booton. He’s also coached in high-level travel programs.

“I knew that my time would come,” said Lavender. “I didn’t mind paying my dues and learning from Paul Booton and from Darrell Gravatt — two great high school coaches — on how to run a program.”

Replacing Gravatt, Lavender knows he has some big shoes to fill. The Riders reached the DIAA Division I girls’ state finals seven times under Gravatt and won the Henlopen Conference title all but once.

CR went 14-4, won the conference and reached the state semifinals last spring.

“It’s an excellent program steeped in tradition coached by a great high school coach — one that I got to study under,” said Lavender. “We’re trying to keep the bar where it is and continue the excellence of the program.”