Experience Is Key For Lions: 2021 Lacey Football Preview
When you're a healthy team, you can see what you're made of.
When you're an experienced team that is healthy, you can take your game to the next level.
The 2021 version of the Lacey Lions are in a fortunate position to have nine returning players on offense and six on defense after two straight seasons of developing younger players who played well, even coming just short of clinching a spot in the title game in 2019 falling valiantly to eventual champion Wall Township.
Some of the players on that 2019 team are now seniors who grew even more in 2020.
"Any time you have a team with that type of game experience, it's always good, (but) I wouldn't go out and say we have a tremendous amount of players with that type of experience but we do bring back a good handful of kids on both sides of the ball from last year," Coach Lou Vircillo, who enters his 41st season in Lacey, tells Shore Sports Network. "We were pretty competitive last year, some games got away from us and we had a couple injuries that hurt us and our type of team can't really afford injuries because our depth factor is not great."
It's a numbers crunch on the roster, the way it similarly is for other Shore Conference teams doing the best they can with who signs up to play.
"We have to develop depth and see who exactly is going to replace key kids," Vircillo said.
Health and experience are two big keys heading into the 2021 season for the Lacey Lions.
"I'm hoping that our kids develop into a competitive team and I believe they will, but we need to stay healthy," Vircillo said.
Historically, in Lacey, under Vircillo, it's been a win each week type of mantra and philosophy, focusing on the here and now as oppose to glancing only at the big goals the team hopes to accomplish by season's end.
"I talk about the opening game, one game at a time, and let's get better everyday and nature will take its course," Vircillo said. "We're looking at just having hopefully a pre-covid year. If that doesn't affect the kids, than everyone is going to be a happier person."
At A Glance
Projected starters (RS=returning starter)
QB: Noah Brunatti, Sr., 5'9, 182, RS
RB/FB: Scott Stevens, Sr., 6'0, 240, RS
RB: Gaetano DiMiele Sr., 5'8, 175
RB: Dom Perrone Jr., 5'9, 160
WR: Mike Abode Sr., 6'1, 190
WR: Matt McClung Sr., 6'0, 185
WR: Andrew Tobia Sr., 5'9, 160
TE: John Dodero, Sr., 6'2, 230, RS
TE: Dominic Tarricone Sr., 6'0, 217
LT: Padraic Banfield, Sr., 6'1, 265, RS
LG: Brenden Supsie Jr., 5'8, 195
C: Damian O'Loughlin, Sr., 5'9, 225, RS
RG: Dakota Schwab Sr., 6'3, 270
RT: Joe Kudlacik, Sr., 5'10, 245, RS
DE: Matt Coon Jr., 6'3, 200 (one start in 2020).
DE: Keith Sullivan Jr., 6'0, 190
DE: John Dodaro Sr., 6'2, 230, RS
DT: Pat Luca Jr., 5'11, 200
DT: Damian O'Loughlin Sr., 5'9, 225, RS
OLB: Mike Rozell Sr., 5'11, 180, RS
ILB: Scott Stevens Sr., 6'0, 240, RS
ILB: Dave Wilson Jr., 6'1, 195
OLB: Dom Tarricone Sr.
OLB: Jeff Brewer Sr., 5'11, 170
FS: Nick Stanziani So., 5'11, 170
FS: Matt Vannortwick Sr., 5'8, 150
SS: Mike Abode Sr., 6'1, 190, RS
CB: Andrew Tobia, Sr., 5'9, 160, RS
CB: Dom Perrone Jr., 5'9, 160
CB: Gaetano DiMiele Sr., 5'8, 175
K/P: Jack Borel, Sr., 5'8, 165, RS
P: Dominic Tarricone, Sr., 6'0, 217, RS
Head Coach: Lou Vircillo, 41st season
Career Record: 299-152
Team Record Last Five Seasons:
Assistant coaches: Warren Smith (QB/Rec); Mike Stuppiello (LB); Chris DiMicco; Bob Nani (DL); Matt Kiefer (Asst. OL); Shane Allen; Shawn McAndrew; Jack Bush (Films); Joe Tobin (Asst. Secondary); Lee Emery (athletic trainer).
Players to Watch: Noah Brunatti, QB, Sr., and Scott Stevens, RB/FB, Sr.
It's been a pretty stellar high school career for quarterback Noah Brunatti and running back/linebacker Scott Stevens, both of whom enter their senior seasons. They are the two biggest keys on offense to ensuring a successful season for Lacey in 2021. If they go this year, the offense will go far, if they don't, the season won't be as successful. If there was a WAR stat for high school football, these two would have high numbers. To date, Brunatti has thrown for 2,012 yards on 287 attempts while throwing 16 touchdowns in 3 seasons while Stevens, a Shore Sports Network First Team All-Shore Selection last season, has found the end zone 11 times sharing the load between running back and full back.
Player Under the Radar: Dom Perrone, RB, Jr.
Perrone only carried the ball 14 times for 147 yards during his sophomore season in 2020 but should see an increase this coming season following the graduation of Tynan Jensen. Although it's likely that Scott Stevens and Gaetano DiMiele will see most of the carries, depending on the situation, Perrone will be a key part in the running game this season.
Impact Newcomers: Matt Coon, DE, Jr. and Pat Luca, DT, Jr.
The Lions lost five players, among others, to graduation who rotated in and played big roles on the defensive line in 2020: Nick Christina, Austin Chadwick, Nick Povia, Gerard O'Connor and Mario Ramirez.
"We lost the entire defensive line, for the most part," Vircillo said. "We need to see who steps up there. We have a plan as to how we're going to try to execute defensively and it'll be a little bit different than what we've been doing and we'll see where that goes."
With a new-look defensive line in 2021, players like Matt Coon and Pat Luca will be looked upon to continue improving and build upon a good look Lions defense.
Top Position Group: Offensive Line
In a Shore Conference program with a long-running (pun intended) tradition of having a successful running game and creating some of the top backs in the area, a solid offensive line is needed to help that part of the game happen. With no holes, there's not much success. For Lacey, it returns four of the five offensive linemen from a year ago with junior Brenden Supsie taking over at left guard alongside left tackle Padraic Banfield, center Damian O'Loughlin, right guard Dakota Schwab and right tackle Joe Kudlacik. If this unit performs well and gives Stevens -- who can certainly create holes on his own -- as well as Gaetano DiMiele and Dom Perrone in the backfield, the Lions running attack will be successful and get the glory and headlines but it'll be in big thanks to this offensive line.
Big Shoes To Fill: Jeff Brewer, OLB, Sr.
Tynan Jensen was one of Lacey's top two-way players prior to graduation, be it getting carries at running back (where he ran the ball 149 times for 934 yards and 9 TD's, according to MaxPreps last season) or his presence on defense at OLB where he compiled 36 tackles. The Lions lost some key players on defense from a season ago and need players like senior Jeff Brewer at linebacker to help with not only filling the void by graduated seniors like Jensen but also elevating their own games to make opposing offensive coordinators lose sleep the night before a game against the Lions.
X-Factor: The Seniors
There are nine returning starters on offense and 6 on defense for the Lions. There are 12 seniors in the 2021 version of the Lacey Lions who are the biggest of the returning players: Scott Stevens, Noah Brunatti, Mike Abode, John Dodaro, Joe Kudlacik, Matt McClung, Damian O'Loughlin, Andrew Tobia, Dom Tarricone, Padraic Banfield, Jack Borel and Mike Rozell. These players, and others, are coming off a 5-4 season which ended with a loss to St. John Vianney and left Vircillo one victory shy of 300 for his career during his 40th season in Lacey. If the seniors use all the lessons from Coach Vircillo and his staff and all the game experience under their belts, it'll be a very successful season for the Lions.
Friday, Sept. 10 vs. Brick, 6:30 pm
Friday, Sept. 17 vs. Middletown North, 6:30 pm
Friday, Sept. 24 at Rumson-Fair Haven, 7:00 pm
Friday, Oct. 1 vs. Howell, 6:30 pm
Friday, Oct. 8 at Brick Memorial, 7:00 pm
Saturday, Oct. 16 at Colts Neck, 12:00 pm
Lacey Football Over The Years
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