Battle-Ready: 2023 Lacey Football Preview
Lacey entered the 2022 season with an inexperienced team and through the first six games of the season, the results reflected it. The Lions opened last year’s campaign 1-5, culminating in a 55-0 loss to a powerhouse Toms River North team.
While the results were not what the young Lions had hoped to produce, coach Lou Vircillo and his staff kept the team focused on the back-end of the schedule. After all, the first part of the season was jammed with high-level teams, with Lacey picking up its lone win over 1-8 Central. During the tail-end of the season, Lacey took down two other four-win teams in Brick and Southern to snag a spot in the NJSIAA Group IV Playoffs.
That strong finish to the regular season, plus a November rout of Toms River East has the Lions entering the season with renewed confidence as they prepare to face a schedule that, while still challenging, will not be as overwhelming as the beginning of 2022 proved to be.
Just like the schedule, the team has some similarities and differences compared to last season as it pertains to the personnel. Seven starters on either side of the ball return, highlighted by senior two-way standout Nick Maertens. Maertens will be back under center and as an outside linebacker on defense and will again link up with classmate Trevor Santucci as a dangerous quarterback-receiver duo.
Junior Aiden Wallace and senior Nick Stanziani return to the backfield, with Wallace as the tailback and Stanziani as the fullback. Joe Miereles will line up at tight end and senior Aaron Tobia is slated to play wide receiver opposite Santucci, with junior John Stabile also in the mix for time at receiver.
Senior guard Dave Vargas and junior center Giovanni Maldanis are the lone returning starters on the offensive line, with sophomore Mike Seeley (left tackle), Jim Mott (left guard) and Micha Moore (right tackle) rounding out the offensive front that will pave the way for Wallace and protect Maertens.
Seeley and Mott will also help key the defensive line, while Maertens, Stanziani and returning junior Corey Smith make up an experienced group of linebackers, with Maertens and Stanzini playing the outside and Smith the inside. Maertens and Stanziani are part of Senior Shane Trangone looks to fill the role of top pass-rusher for Lacey following the graduation of 2022 team sack leader Pat Luca.
Tobia and junior Landon Raabe will lead a young secondary, with the Tobia the strong safety and Raabe at free safety. The Lions are set to open the season with an underclass cornerback tandem of sophomore Grayson Koch and freshman Joe Davis. Lucas Conforti is another sophomore who will play a key role, with Conforti serving as both the kicker and the punter.
Youth will be prevalent on Lacey’s roster, but the presence of Maertens, Stanziani, Santucci, Vargas and Tobia as the returning senior core of the team gives Lacey a chance to start the season off strong. It will not be an easy task against their schedule, but last year taught the Lions what to expect out of the gate and how to persevere through the end of the season.
Lacey at a Glance
Head Coach: Lou Vircillo, 43rd season
Career Record: 308-162-3
2022 Record: 4-6
Coaching Staff: Chris Demarest, Warren Smith, Mike Stuppiello, Mike Kiefer, Joe Tobin, Chris Dimicco, Mike Heilala, Lee Emery (Athletic Trainer)
Circle the Calendar: Sept. 29 at Central
One of the Shore’s more underrated rivalries, Lacey and Central are set for a midseason battle in Bayville with both teams coming off losing seasons. As was the case last year, the game vs. Central could very well represent Lacey’s best chance at a win during the entire schedule after the Golden Eagles went 1-8 last season. Regardless of the records, this one will be a battle, with the Lions fighting off Central for a 31-18 win in 2022.
Big Shoes to Fill: Shane Trangone, Sr., DE
Pat Luca was a dynamic player on the edge for Lacey a year ago, accumulating team highs with three sacks and eight tackles for a loss in his final season with the Lions. This season, Trangone will be the top pass-rushing and edge-setter for Lacey while leading a defensive line that has the least returning experience of any unit on either side of the ball for Lacey.
Player to Watch: Nick Maertens, Sr., QB/OLB
As a junior in 2022, Maertens did a little bit of everything for Lacey and now that he is a senior, he could very well be getting set to do a lot of everything for the Lions. In addition to serving as a dual-threat quarterback as a junior, Maertens was a reliable outside linebacker who finished tied for third on the team with seven tackles for a loss. With receiver Trevor Santucci (21 receptions, 306 yards, six touchdowns) back in the fold, Maertens has a chance to put up a big statistical season as he tries to guide Lacey back to the playoffs.
Impact Newcomers: Joe Davis (Fr., CB) and Grayson Koch (So., CB)
Half of Lacey’s secondary will be returning starters and the other half will be underclass newcomers, giving the Lions a starter from all four classes among the group of defensive backs. Davis and Koch are the two youngest members of the secondary and both will line up at cornerback, with Koch jumping into the starting unit as a sophomore and Davis in line to become the rare freshman starter.
Friday, Aug. 25 vs. Absegami, 5 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 31 at Ocean, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 8 vs. Jackson Memorial, 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 15 vs. Southern, 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 23 at Marlboro, Noon
Friday, Sept. 29 at Central, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 6 at Middletown North, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 13 vs. Brick Memorial, 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 20 vs. Howell, 6:30 p.m.