Nick SanGiacomo and Mike DeTroia eyed each other warily through middle school and their freshmen year of high school.

Both wanted to be the Barnegat quarterback.

"We didn't used to be very good friends," DeTroia said. "We knew when we got to high school it was going to be between me and him."

Barnegat coach Rob Davis decided the duo's fate as sophomores.

SanGiacomo, who had the better arm, would be the quarterback. DeTroia, the better athlete, would play wide receiver and defensive back.

The decision couldn't have worked out any better. SanGiacomo and DeTroia are both now seniors, and they spark the potent Barnegat passing game that is a big reason for the Bengals' success.

"It made me think that everything happens for a reason," DeTroia said of the way Davis' decision has unfolded.

Barnegat (3-0) is off to its best start in school history.

The Bengals host Lacey Township (4-0) at 7 p.m. today in what is probably Barnegat's most highly anticipated game since the school made its varsity football debut in 2006. Both the Bengals and Lacey are tied for the Shore Conference B South lead. Lacey is No. 3 in The Press' Elite 11.

The 6-foot-4 SanGiacomo, has thrown for 906 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. He has thrown for 4,672 yards and 43 touchdowns in 23 career starts. SanGiacomo has verbally committed to attend Tulane University in New Orleans on a scholarship.

"Nick knows how defenses are trying to defend him," Davis said, "and he knows our offense inside and out."

A wide range of colleges, including some Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) schools, are showing interest in the 6-3, 190-pound DeTroia, who's caught 18 passes for 401 yards and four touchdowns.

"Mike is very, very quick," Davis said. "He's gotten a lot faster from last year. He's very slippery with the football. It's hard (for defenders) to get a good shot at him."

DeTroia didn't mind the move to wide receiver.

"I knew in the back of my head that Nick had a little more experience than me," he said, "but I also knew I was more athletic than he was."

Barnegat's passing game is an intricate system. SanGiacomo scans the defense at the line of scrimmage before he finalizes the play. He checks to see if the defense is in 4-4 or 5-2 formation. He looks where the linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties are playing.

"It's a lot of fun," SanGiacomo said. "I have some real good receivers. I just get the ball out quick to them and let them make a play."

DeTroia and the rest of the wide receivers also read defenses.

SanGiacomo and DeTroia have played together so long they can practically communicate without speaking.

"We have hand signals," DeTroia said. "At any given time if I see something, he'll look over and I'll give him a signal."

Davis knows firsthand just how good Lacey is. He watched the Lions beat Pinelands Regional 42-0 two weeks ago. Lacey has outscored its opponents 148-13. Davis also was an assistant coach at Lacey from 1997-2003.

"Lacey is physical and very athletic," Davis said. "We're up for a big challenge. We're new to this type of situation, but we're going to give it our all."

Barnegat knows it's the underdog, but SanGiacomo, DeTroia and the rest of the Bengals are looking forward to the opportunity to play in such a high-profile game. Many Barnegat students are expected to dress all in black. The school's colors are black and orange.

"Barnegat's never had this opportunity to be on the big stage," SanGiacomo said. "The school spirit is something Barnegat hasn't had. We've had a big crowd at home games this year. I think it's helping us win. Kids are wearing back and orange even though black and orange aren't popular colors. They're dying their hair orange. It's pretty neat."

SanGiacomo and DeTroia are best friends now. They look back at their early troubles and laugh.

Contact Michael McGarry:

609-272-7185

No. 3 Lacey Township (4-0)

at Barnegat (3-0)

When/where: 7 p.m. today at Barnegat

Why this game is important: These teams are tied for the Shore Conference B South lead. Lacey is No. 3 in The Press Elite 11.

Key Players:

Lacey Township: Craig Cicardo, QB, 23-of-30 for 471 yards and seven touchdowns and 59 carries for 259 yards and seven touchdowns; Jake Dabal, RB, 37 carries for 335 yards; Jarrod Molzon, RB/K/DB, six touchdowns scored and two field goals; Matt Uveges, LB, 30 tackles; Dylan Joslin, LB, five sacks.

Barnegat: Nick SanGiacomo, QB, 54-of-89 for 906 yards and 10 touchdowns; Mike DeTroia, WR/DB, 18 catches for 401 yards and four touchdowns; Pat Moran, WR, 13 catches for 227 yards and three touchdowns; Ryan Morris, TE, eight catches for 105 yards and three touchdowns.

Did you know: This is the first meeting between Lacey and Barnegat. … Barnegat is off to its best start in school history. … The Lacey defense has allowed just 13 points this season.