Lacey Ends Losing Streak as Lou Vircillo Gets Milestone Victory
LACEY - For more than a calendar year, Lacey had been trying to get a milestone victory for its Hall of Fame coach as it endured the longest losing streak in Lou Vircillo's 34-year tenure as the program's only coach.
On their home field on Saturday, the Lions walked off with a mixture of exhilaration and relief as they ended an 11-game losing streak with a 28-0 nondivisional win over Jackson Liberty (4-3) to give Vircillo his 264th career win and put him alone in second place for career victories in Shore Conference history. Vircillo had been tied at 263 with the late Vic Kubu of Middletown North and Manasquan since Oct. 11 of last year, when a 5-0 start sunk to a five-game losing streak to end last season that continued with a six-game losing streak to start this fall.
"It's about time,'' said senior quarterback Conor Davies. "It's been 11 games. It's been over a year. The worst season is maybe 4-6 here. It's not pressure, it's just a sigh of relief."
"To be quite honest with you, the only time I think about it at all is when people put it out there and talk about it,'' Vircillo said about the milestone win. "I guess it's a bigger thing for the media because all we were trying to do was win a freakin' game. This has really been a challenging year because we've had so many kids out."
Davies threw two touchdown passes and ran for another while the defense posted its first shutout since 2011 to help the Lions (1-6) end the skid and put Vircillo alone behind only retired Brick legend Warren Wolf, whose 364 career wins are second all-time in New Jersey history. Vircillo has a career record of 264-124-3 and has led the Lions to four NJSIAA sectional titles, 13 Shore Conference division titles, 19 state playoff appearances and three undefeated seasons
"He's definitely a legend,'' Davies said. "We almost kind of feel bad that it took so long to get this win for him."
Lacey dominated from start to finish, taking a 7-0 lead on an 11-play, 54-yard drive in the first quarter and not looking back against a team tied for first place in Class B South. Davies threw a two-yard touchdown pass to senior wideout Sean Cahalane, who had 7 catches for 98 yards, to get things started with 2:20 left in the first quarter on a drive set up by an interception by senior linebacker Brett Kinsey.
The Lacey defense, which held Jackson Liberty to 141 total yards, then forced a three-and-out that set up a 13-play, 67-yard drive that ended with a one-yard touchdown pass from Davies to sophomore running back Connor Wilson for a 14-0 lead with 3:30 left in the first half. It was the first of two touchdowns on the day for Wilson, who ran for 80 yards on 19 carries.
"We had confidence coming into this game,'' Davies said. "We had a good week of practice and it carried over out here."
The lead would stay that way until halftime as the defense limited Jackson Liberty to 36 total yards before the break. The defense then set the tone on the first play from scrimmage of the second half when Kinsey stripped a Lions ballcarrier for a fumble that was recovered by junior defensive lineman Tarique Smith at Jackson Liberty's 38-yard line.
Eight plays later, Davies dashed up the middle for a 3-yard touchdown and a 21-0 lead after the third of four extra points on the day for junior kicker Pat Davis. Lacey mounted one final scoring drive in the fourth quarter, going 67 yards in eight plays and scoring on a four-yard run by Wilson for a 28-0 lead with 7:05 left in the game.
Jackson Liberty then looked like it might ruin Lacey's shutout bid when it drove to the 13-yard line late in the game, but Wilson preserved the goose egg with a pass break-up in the end zone on fourth down.
It concluded a much-needed win for the Lions, who were a playoff team last year and are only two years removed from a 10-win season and four years removed from an undefeated season. The combination of a rugged schedule that has included four teams ranked in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 and a lineup decimated to the tune of 13 starting positions lost to injury has left the Lions playing out the string.
"The kids accept the challenge and are more dutiful,'' Vircillo said. "We talk to them about taking each and every day as it comes and being grateful to take on the challenge of each game."
With a host of players thrust into the starting lineup who will return next year, Lacey looks to build on the win after the most frustrating stretch of any team in program history.
"Hopefully this will help us slingshot forward, and we can win our next three to finish 4-6,'' Davies said.
Lacey 28, Jackson Liberty 0
. L J
First downs 17 9
Rushes-yards 37-157 22-79
Passing 14-18-0 8-17-1
Passing yards 158 62
Penalties 5-40 2-20
Fumbles-lost 0-0 3-1
Jackson Liberty (4-3) 0 0 0 0 - 0
Lacey (1-6) 7 7 7 7 - 28
Cahalane 2-yard pass from Davies (Davis kick).
Wilson 1-yard pass from Davies (Davis kick).
Davies 3-yard run (Davis kick).
Wilson 4-yard run (Davis kick).
Rushing - L: Wilson 19-80, Davies 13-56, Sayre 5-21. J: Regina 10-53, Van Wickle 10-30, Pinto 2-(-4).
Passing - L: Davies 14-18-0 158. J: Van Wickle 8-17-1 62.
Receiving - L: Cahalane 7-98, Sayre 3-30, Wilson 1-1, Bocchini 2-30, Blackwell 1-(-1). J: Pinto 4-23, Regina 1-6, Ribellino 2-27, Stoudt 1-6.
Interceptions - L: Kinsey 1-0.