Football – Continuing to Improve: 2017 Lacey Preview
Last year it was about adjusting to the weekly competition inside Class B South they were joining following years in the tough Class A South division, but now it's about improving on that 6-4 mark and moving past Point Boro and Lakewood, who finished first and second, respectively.
"We felt that we were a lot more competitive in the B South," said Lou Vircillo who enters his 37th season as the Lions head coach. "We had more depth for a B-division type of program and we were in every game. We had an opportunity to win at least three of the games we lost so I felt pretty good about the team's effort."
Playing a year in B South also provided them with experience and a better idea of how to prepare for their new division foes.
"We didn't know what the teams were like last year because we never played them before," said senior quarterback Coleton Klaus. "This year we know what's going on and what they're doing and how they play."
"I think Point Boro is an excellent football team and they run an offense that nationally is one of the toughest to stop," said Vircillo. "Then you have Lakewood who is returning some stellar athletes and they're always very difficult to defend if you allow them to get into the open field."
His players are certainly hungry to get back into the postseason, especially senior offensive tackle Jon Rioux, who may also see some time at nose guard.
"Since my freshman year I haven't seen us in the postseason and that's a big goal of mine," said Rioux. "Going after that state championship is always the goal but we want to win our conference and everything first."
"I think we can go all the way but we have to work for it and just keep going after it everyday," said Klaus. "We can't just say that and it just happens, we have to work for it."
"We're taking it one game at a time and just focusing on what we have to do and where we have to go," said senior running back and linebacker Jason Giresi.
The Lions also have a number of starters and key players returning this season which could help them elevate in the divisional ranks.
"We feel very good about our front this year and hope we can build off last year's momentum," said Vircillo.
"We're really starting to mesh together, just seeing everyone get after it as well as they are and really showing how hard we've been working," Giresi said. "I think we have a good chance to be very successful."
Vircillo says they'll be running the same type of offense and defense (Multiple-I offensive set and 3-4 defensive look) again this season and his goal is to run an offense that best suits his players skill sets.
Head coach: Lou Vircillo, 37th season.
Career record: 275-136-3.
2016 record: 6-4 (5-2).
Assistant coaches: Shane Allen (DL); Warren Smith (QB); Mike Stuppielo (LB); Chris Dimicco (RB); Jack Bush (scouting); Watson Heilala (freshmen); John Tierney (OL); Joe Tobin (DB); Bob Nani (OL); Keith Tyhannic (freshmen); Lee Emery (athletic trainer).
BIG SHOES TO FILL: Tanner Miick, Sr., WR/FS
Vircillo says it's more of a team approach this year to fill the void of all the seniors who graduated, but someone like Tanner Miick stepping up to fill the spot left open by Chase Stephensen could be a big part of their offense.
X-FACTOR: The defense
With a couple of strong offenses finishing in front of them in the division last year, playing good defense could help them win a lot of the close games or games similar to the ones that got away from them in 2016.
GLUE GUY: Jon Rioux, Sr., OL/DL
Rioux has been one of the most vocal leaders on the team and is someone who really amps up the rest of his teammates. Rioux, along with guys like Giresi and Klaus, ocould play a critical factor in winning B South.
IMPACT NEWCOMER: Ray Agosto, Jr., WR/DE
The more critical position Agosto will play this year will be on the defensive line as the Lions look to step up their defense against a couple of explosive offenses in their own division. If Agosto and the rest of the defense play up to par, this could be much more of a stingy unit this.
PIVOTAL GAME: Sep 16. vs. Point Boro
Point Boro has won two straight division titles, including an outright crown last season. The road to the division title goes through the Panthers.
Vin Ebenau is a Shore Sports Network Contributor. You can follow him on Twitter @VinEbenau. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.