LACEY TOWNSHIP - The Lacey Township High School football grabbed the early momentum against Neptune on Monday afternoon, but the Lions couldn't convert that momentum into an early lead.
Lacey failed to convert on two first-quarter scoring opportunities and lost to Neptune 16-3 in a Shore Conference game. The Lions (4-4) are the defending South Jersey Group III champion but would now need help from other teams to make the playoffs.
Neptune (6-1) and Lacey are both playoff contenders. The game was postponed Saturday when officials deemed Lacey's field unplayable due to the storm.
Linebacker Jordan Powell gave Lacey its first chance to score Monday when he intercepted a pass on Neptune's first possession. The Lions drove to the Neptune 3-yard line behind the running of Kyle Spatz.
But Lacey then fumbled and Neptune recovered.
After a bad Neptune punt, Lacey began its second possession at the Scarlet Fliers' 27-yard line.
The Lions drove to the Neptune 5-yard line but again could not score. This time the drive ended with an incomplete pass on fourth down.
"We had a couple of opportunities, and we didn't strike," Lacey coach Lou Vircillo said. "We're a little youthful in spots and those things are going to happen."
Neptune then methodically took control.
The Scarlet Fliers adjusted on defense. Spatz ran for 48 yards on Lacey's first two possessions but finished the game with 58 rushing yards.
"We had some alignment issues (early)," Neptune linebacker Ikie Calderon said. "We had to overcome adversity. They had the momentum. We had to overcome it. We stuck together."
Neptune is known for its speed, but on Monday it moved the ball slowly down the field. Neptune's first scoring drive took 14 plays and covered 72 yards. It ended with a Donald Areus' 29-yard field goal that gave the Scarlet Fliers a 3-0 lead with 3 minutes, 23 seconds left in the first half.
Neptune took a 10-0 lead when it drove 63 yards in 12 plays for a touchdown in its first possession of the second half.
Still, the Lions had chances to tie on the fourth quarter.
Down 10-3, Lacey had the ball three times, but two of those possessions ended in interceptions and the third in a punt. Neptune's David Gutzmore intercepted a pass on the game's final play and returned it 21 yards for a touchdown.
The Lions would much rather run than thrown the football.
"They forced us into more of an air game," Vircillo said. "They're a better team."
Lacey doesn't have time to sulk about the defeat. The Lions play at Middletown South (5-2) this Friday. Lacey will then await its playoff fate. The playoff fields will be determined after this weekend's games.
"They're a little sorry for themselves right now," Vircillo said of his players. "I can see it in their eyes. They want, they want, they want. But it doesn't happen like that. You have to win to on the field."
Contact Michael McGarry:
Neptune 0 3 7 6-16
Lacey Township 0 0 0 3-3
NT-Areus 21 field goal
NT-Martin 1 run (Areus kick)
NT-Gutzmore 21 int return (kick not attempted)
RECORDS – Neptune 6-1; Lacey 4-4