Central and Lacey set for third annual full-contact alumni football game
The rivalry between Lacey and Central Regional may not play out during the high school football season any longer, but the two programs have found a way to keep the competitive tradition going.
On Saturday, the third annual full-contact alumni game between the Lions and Golden Eagles will take place at Lacey High School. Lacey and Central used to play on Thanksgiving, but that tradition ended following the 2009 season. The two teams remained on each other’s schedule with both residing in the Shore Conference’s Class B South division, but that concluded in 2012 when Lacey moved to Class A South. Lacey has since moved back to B South, actually switching spots with Central. The teams have not met since Lacey’s 21-6 victory in 2011.
The rivalry was resurrected in 2016, however, thanks to OT Football, a company founded by former Wall High School football player Matt Malleo. OT Football organizes full-pad alumni games between high schools and has also put together games pitting Keyport vs. Keansburg, Middletown North vs. Middletown South and Red Bank vs. Long Branch.
Lacey won the first meeting, 23-7, but Central came back last season with a 13-3 victory to even the series. On Saturday one team will earn bragging rights for the year and give their respective school a two-games-to-one lead. The communities have taken to the game, including the mayors of both towns, who have a friendly wager on the game with the winner being treated to dinner. The winning team also receives the Mayors’ Trophy.
Central’s roster will feature players from several different decades, including some recent names that will be very familiar to Shore Conference fans. Running back Mike Bickford, the Golden Eagles’ all-time leading rusher and a 2017 graduate, will lead the offense along with quarterback Mike Miserendino (2016) and Sam Pepe (2006). The team captains are Mike Caputo (1976), Billy Spano (2004), Jason Prior (2006) and Rick Pullen (1973). Other notables on offense including Charlie Mackie (2009), Walter Karasievica (2010) and Greg Uhlak. The defense will feature Spano, Prior, Caputo, Ryan Howell (1997) and Anthony Grieco (2009). Current Central assistant coach Pat Reilly will coach the Golden Eagles squad.
Lacey’s squad will be led by quarterback Warren Smith (2008), running back Kyle Spatz (2013), wide receiver/defensive back Bill Belford (2013), defensive lineman Mike Stuppiello (2010), defensive back Joe Pandorf (2006) and running back Anthony Ringle (2003).
Smith is currently an assistant coach for the Lions and also a quarterback for the Washington Valor of the Arena Football League, which just captured the ArenaBowl XXXI championship. Smith was a standout at the University of Maine after a career at Lacey that included helping the Lions go 12-0 in 2006 and reach a sectional final in 2007. He will coach the offense in addition to playing in the game.
Stuppiello, who is also a current assistant coach for Lacey, will also serve as a player/coach and lead the defense. Lacey head coach Lou Vircillo has been helping out at practices and will be on the sideline for the game. There will also be coaches from Lacey Gridiron, who coaches the 7th and 8th graders, helping out.
Kickoff on Saturday is 3 p.m. General admission tickets are $10 at the door and kids five and under are free.