LACEY TOWNSHIP — Cole Gudzak saw the football at his feet Saturday afternoon.
He also saw the opportunity to get the Lacey Township High School football team a victory.
Gudzak recovered a fumble in the end zone for the game’s only touchdown as Lacey improved to 3-0 with a 6-3 win over Southern Regional in a Shore Conference Constitution Division game.
“Right place, right time,” said Gudzak, a senior linebacker and running back.
Two enthusiastic student sections helped fill the home and visiting bleachers as these schools met on a warm, sunny day. Lacey-Southern has developed into an intense rivalry. Lacey coach Lou Vircillo called the game “the battle of Route 9.”
“This is huge,” Lacey sophomore running back Chase Granit said. “Southern is the closest school to us other than (Central Regional), and we don’t play Central anymore.”
Gudzak’s winning touchdown came with 3 minutes, 49 seconds left in the third quarter. Lacey faced a fourth down from the Southern 1-yard line.
Granit got the handoff and dove for the goal line, but the ball came loose.
“I was in the end zone,” Gudzak said. “I turned around. I saw the ball pop out. It landed at my feet. I jumped on it — touchdown. I started running around.”
Lacey began its winning touchdown drive at the Southern 29 after linebacker Mike Kudlacik recovered a Rams fumble.
Both teams relied on their defense. Southern’s only points came when Zack Hem kicked a 35-yard field with less than 30 seconds left in the first half.
Kudlacik, Greg Chadwick and Chris Locha made tackles for losses for Lacey, while Bobby Evans intercepted a pass. Southern defensive back Thomas Barnett made three tackles for losses.
“It was a brawl all game,” Gudzak said.
Lacey did control nearly all of the second half behind the running of Granit, who carried 28 times for 112 yards. Granit carried the ball on seven of the nine plays on Lacey’s touchdown drive.
“We were doing no huddle, and it’s rough,” he said. “But you just have to push through the loss of energy.”
Granit has rushed for at least 100 yards in each game this season. The Lions boast a tradition of standout running backs, dating to Keith Elias, a 1990 graduate and former New York Giant.
“Coach V (Vircillo) talks a lot about the running backs,” Granit said. “I think with everyone helping, we can (maintain the tradition).”
The Lions’ 3-0 start is surprising considering they have had to overcome injury and inexperience. The Lions start several sophomores. Lacey junior Donovan Bacchetta typically plays receiver, but he made his first start at quarterback Saturday because the Lions already have lost two quarterbacks to injury this season.
Bacchetta clinched the victory when he tossed a 4-yard to pass Justin Gorski on a fourth-and-one play from the Southern 19 with less than two minutes left. Lacey is 3-0 for the first time since 2014.
“Every week the kids keep regrouping,” Vircillo said. “They look past what the problems are. That’s very important. The young kids hang in there and they play to the end. Every day they keep doing it and improve the stronger our team will get in the latter part of the season.”
Southern Regional;0 3 0 0—3
Lacey Township;0 0 6 0—6
SR – Hem 35 field goal
LT – Gudzak fumble recovered in end zone (kick missed)
Records – Southern 0-2; Lacey 3-0