BARNEGAT TOWNSHIP - Senior Matt Somers and close to 100 fellow members of "Black Out," Barnegat's student cheering section, were stationed in the parking lot before the game Friday loading each other up with black and orange body and face paint.
Everywhere you looked, it was obvious - this was one of the biggest games in school history.
"We are beyond stoked," Somers said, his face and upper body covered in paint. "This is the biggest game of the year and we go all out. We want people to know about us."
Lacey Township ruined the party.
The Lions, the No. 3 team in The Press Elite 11, weathered Barnegat's prolific passing attack and scored the final four touchdowns to win 28-7 in a key Shore Conference B South game.
"This was a great team that we played against today," Lacey quarterback Craig Cicardo said.
"They definitely gave us a fight, but we came out with the win and that's what matters most."
The half-mile drive down Bengal Boulevard was bumper-to-bumper an hour before the game. Cars were still trying to find spots late in the first half.
The stands on each side of the field were nearly filled to capacity with hundreds of fans lining the fence surrounding the field.
"It was great to have the whole town come out and know that they have your back," Barnegat senior wide receiver Mike DeTroia said.
"It was good to know that everyone in the town supports us."
When Barnegat quarterback Nick SanGiacomo hit DeTroia with an 11-yard touchdown pass late in the first quarter to give the Bengals an early 7-0 lead, the crowd erupted.
The celebration was short-lived.
"We felt great," DeTroia said. "I thought we had all the momentum. I thought from then on that we would be able to put up points, but they tightened it up and played hard on defense. Credit to them."
On fourth-and-7, Cicardo found Cameron Blackwell over the middle for a 38-yard touchdown to draw even.
Lacey took the lead for good with 2 minutes and 37 seconds left in the first half as Cicardo scored on a 5-yard run.
Cicardo finished with 80 yards on 15 carries and two touchdowns. He also threw for 77 yards and a touchdown. Jake Dabal ran for 108 yards on 12 carries including a 50-yard run on third-and-long late in the fourth that ended any hopes of a Barnegat comeback.
"Every win is big for us, but this one was really significant because we were both undefeated in B South," Cicardo said.
Lacey improved to 5-0 overall and 4-0 in the division. Barnegat (2-1, 3-1) was off to the best start in school history.
"We'll be all right," Barnegat coach Rob Davis said. "Lacey is a very good football team. We have to capitalize in certain situations and give them credit. That's why they are a highly ranked football team."
SanGiacomo is a Division I quarterback, having committed to Tulane University on a scholarship.
The Lions were able to hold SanGiacomo to 11-of-27 passing for 80 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Lacey defensive linemen Tom Murray, Dylan Joslin, Dave Vierra, Jake Fernandez and company were able to pressure SanGiacomo all game, often with only three linemen rushing.
"Every single level of our defense is hard to get past," Cicardo said. "We have beast defensive linemen, great linebackers and a great secondary."
DeTroia, who is also a Division I prospect at 6-foot-4, 198 pounds with good hands, said Lacey's defense was the toughest he's ever faced.
"That's what they're known for," DeTroia said. "They are tough to move the ball on. They're very fast and athletic. Just tough kids."
DeTroia was limited to four catches for 18 yards. He did have an interception and a fumble recovery.
Barnegat never gave up.
On the 10th play of a drive late in the third, Lacey's Jarrod Molzon stepped in front of a SanGiacomo pass at his own 11 and ran it back 89 yards for a touchdown.
Barnegat marched down the field on each of its next two possessions as well and each ended with interceptions, one by Brian Mykoliw and one by Zach Torrell.
"I'm proud of our kids, our program and our school," Davis said. "We played the game to win. We didn't play to keep it close. We did some good things and we were a couple plays away from making it real interesting."
Notes: SanGiacomo left the game late in the third period with an apparent hip injury. Davis said he took SanGiacomo out for precautionary reasons and that he expects him to be ready to play next week. …With Friday's win, Lacey has now outscored opponents 176-20 this season.
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