The key for the Lacey Lions to shine on the field this season will be from a collective mix of seniors and younger players who need to develop quickly for the team to battle a tough schedule.

"We have some young kids and are bringing along some sophomores and that takes a while," head coach Lou Vircillo, who enters this 39th season, said. "We also have some juniors who didn't play last year. It's a slow process but we're getting there and we hope that we can stay healthy and get competitive."

There are several upperclassmen looking to make their mark in 2019 having played enough minutes on the field last season to show what they can do and Vircillo has higher expectations for the returning players to perform at an elevated level this fall.

"We're hoping that they do a great job in their senior year," Vircillo said. "Our line is coming along as a mobile line, both on defense and offense, and we're a bit undersized but they have motor and they'll run and that's always good."

From left to right: Donovan Bacchetta, Noah Brunatti and Chase Granit of Lacey

Players to Watch: Justin Gorski (Sr. RB/SS 5'11, 155) and Bobby Evans (Sr. RB/SS 5'9, 165)

Gorski took more carries out of the backfield in 2018 and accounted for 277 yards from scrimmage. In the preseason, he's continued his development in hopes of an even better year, as does Evans, who anticpates more carries and lining up fewer times at receiver where he collected 289 yards as a junior.

Player Under the Radar: Chase Granit (Jr. RB 5'9, 190)

Granit was well on his way to a 1,000-yard rushing season in '18, compiling 400 through the first three games of the season. He then had a battle with injuries that took him off the field. He's not healthy just yet but if he is able to return to the field at tailback, he could propel the Lions into the postseason with a welcomed boost.

Area of Strength Unit: Running Backs

The running game is the Lions' strong suit again. They've had a long line of accomplishment in that regard over the years and this year's crop has to lead the offense with long drives and reaching the end zone often. Gorski and Evans are likely to see a bulk of the carries and be key parts to the Lions bid for a divisional title and playoff run.

Lacey will be successful if…

The Lions develop their sophomores quickly and the offensive and defensive lines put together size with speed. Lacey is a young team and it needs to make sure the sophomores and juniors new to the program understand weekly contributions are crucial. The lines need to find a way to protect, block and tackle at a recurring rate.

Lights, Camera, Action

For the first time in school history, the football field will have lights and home games can be played on Friday nights. Vircillo said it was the wish of the community that came true.

"I like Saturday afternoon games but the community, my parents really like Friday night games and I said if you can raise the money, you can have the lights and they did," Vircillo said. "I'll just have to go to bed a little bit later."

New Division, Same Lions

The Shore Conference Executive Committee approved a significant realignment in the offseason by moving 25 of the 43 teams into different divisions. The Lions have a battle ahead of them in the Liberty Division.

"In terms of the ability of the teams, we're facing some real good competition," Vircillo said. "Manasquan is always a bear and then you have Holmdel and Red Bank coming off of banner years and we're going to face Central, who is a long time rival but we haven't played them in a long time."

At A Glance:

HEAD COACH: Lou Vircillo (39th season)

CAREER RECORD: 287-144

2018 RECORD: 5-5 (3-2 in the Constitution Division)

ASSISTANT COACHES

Warren Smith (QB)

Mike Stuppiello (DE)

Chris DiMicco (LB)

Bob Nani (DT)

Matt Kiefer (OL)

Shane Allen (DB)

Shawn McAndrew (WR)

Lee Emery (Athletic Trainer)

OFFENSE: I/Spread

DEFENSE: Multiple

BIG SHOES TO FILL: Bobby Evans (Sr. RB/SS 5-9, 165)

Eric Green was injured prior to the 2018 season but went on to have a good year, especially defensively at strong safety, for the Lions. With Green having graduated, it'll be up to players like senior Evans to be the last line of defense and keep opponents out of the end zone.

X-FACTOR: The Youth Movement

Coach Vircillo's Lions have lost a lot of very talented players to graduation the last two seasons and while there are many seniors who will help lead the way, it'll be up to the development of several sophomores with high ceilings to develop on the fly and make an immediate impact for the team to be successful.

IMPACT NEWCOMER: Noah Brunatti (So. QB 5-9, 170)

While the Lions have been more historically known for having a solid running game, they've had quarterbacks over the years who have been able to manage the game overall and display good arms. While only a sophomore, Brunatti has shown some potential in training camp and certainly has the arm to make things challenging on opposing secondary's.

PIVOTAL GAME: September 27 vs. Manasquan

The Lions have a favorable schedule to begin the season but run into a big time challenge when the Warriors come out to play in Week Four. This Liberty Division matchup is a big one for Lacey if it wants to challenge for a divisional crown and begins a tough three-week stretch with a trip to Holmdel looming in Week Five and Red Bank in Week Six.

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