LACEY TOWNSHIP - The football rivalry between Lacey Township and Central Regional High Schools is so spirited, even the mascots were involved in a pregame tussle Saturday afternoon.
The bout between the Lacey Lion and Central Golden Eagle was a playful exchange. The ensuing game was much more intense. Jarring tackles and crunching blocks occurred on almost every play of Lacey's 29-13 victory.
"No matter what happens during the year, you always want to beat Central," Lacey quarterback Craig Cicardo said.
After the game ended, the teams gathered at midfield for handshakes. In keeping with tradition, Lacey's underclassmen then hoisted the seniors onto their shoulder pads and carried them off the field.
Starting next season, that won't happen. According to Lions coach Lou Vircillo, the Shore Conference rivals will continue to play each other, but it will not be the final game of their regular seasons for at least two years.
Vircillo explained that the schools could not agree on when the game should be played. Central wanted it on Thanksgiving Day, but Lacey (8-3) wanted to keep it for the Saturday after the holiday in case one or both of the schools was participating in the state playoffs.
"I don't know if the game is as big for the communites as it used to be, but it certainly means a lot to the players and coaches," Vircillo said. "This game is always going to be special and something that will be talked about no matter when it's played."
Cicardo and running back/safety Jarrod Molzon created most of this year's memories. The juniors combined for all four Lions touchdowns to help them rebound from last week's loss to Timber Creek in the South Jersey Group III playoffs.
Cicardo scored on back-to-back possessions to give Lacey a 14-0 lead. Both TDs came on identical plays in which Cicardo faked handoffs to junior running back Jake Dabal. When Central's defense swarmed to Dabal, Cicardo took off and was barely touched while scoring on runs of 4 and 15 yards, respectively. He finished with 104 yards on 20 carries. Dubal led Lacey with 128 yards on 18 attempts.
"When teams key on Jake, they're making a big mistake," Cicardo said. "That just opens things up for the rest of our offense."
Central (3-7) cut the deficit to 14-7 with quarterback Mike Greco's 30-yard TD pass to wide receiver Kevin Adrian - the two also hit for a 16-yard TD in the fourth quarter - but Lacey took command in the second half behind Molzon.
Molzon had a quiet first half but was a much bigger factor after intermission. He showed his prowess as a running back with a 22-yard dash to the end zone in the third quarter. Two plays later, he added another touchdown with a serpentine, 49-yard interception return.
"This game means a lot to us," Molzon said. "It's a big for the seniors to be able to (end their high school careers) with a win, but it's even bigger when the win comes against Central."
Contact David Weinberg:
Central Regional 0 7 0 6 -13
Lacey Township 7 7 8 7 - 29
LT - Cicardo 4 run (Molzon kick)
LT - Cicardo 15 run (Molzon kick)
C - Adrian 30 pass from Greco (E. Ruhnke kick)
LT - Safety (punt snap out of end zone)
LT - Molzon 22 run (Run failed)
LT - Molzon 49 interception return (M. Ruhnke kick)
C - Adrian 16 pass from Greco (Pass failed)
TEAM STATS C LT
First Downs 8 16
Rushing Yards 111 285
Passing Yards 46 50
Turnovers 1 2
Rushing - Hardy 18-65, Pepe 15-57, Greco 1-(-1) C; Dabal 18-128, Cicardo 20-104, Molzon 5-43, Stuppiello 2-0 LT.
Passing - Greco 2-8-46-1, Hardy 0-1-0 C; Cicardo 8-11-50 LT.
Receiving - Adrian 2-46 C; Lorton 1-20, Jensen 4-13, Uveges 1-12, Blackwell 2-12 LT.
RECORDS - Central Regional 3-7; Lacey Township 8-3.