The Lacey Lions' dreams of an unbeaten season and an NJSIAA South IV title fell victim to Kingsway Regional's punishing ground assault Saturday.
The Dragons battered the Lions for 458 yards and six touchdowns on 52 carries in their 42-28 victory in the semifinals. Kingsway piled up 266 second-half yards on 23 cracks at the line.
"They broke a lot of tackles -- a lot of tackles," Lacey coach Lou Vircillo said. "They had real physical backs. We usually defend this kind of team real well. We were susceptible to their physical backs.
"I left the field saying, 'Our kids played as hard as they could and then some.' We played the run all the way. They cracked it. We threw everything but the kitchen sink at them."
Kingsway rode the speed and power of junior running back Ray Lawery and senior running back Brendon Irving to the win in front of 1,190 fans. Lawery sped for 218 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries. Irving erupted for 215 yards and three TDs on 19 attempts.
"Lawery is a good, old-fashioned gladiator back," Vircillo said. "He's quick. Irving has a low center of gravity."
The sixth-seeded Dragons (8-3) went ahead to stay, 34-28, on an Irving 51-yard run up the middle with 3:53 left in the fourth quarter after fielding an onside kick at their 36-yard-line.
"They scored on that damned trap play," Vircillo said. "We did not defense it right."
Lawery made it 40-28 with 1:53 left on a 34-yard toss sweep off left end. Irving ran for the two-point conversion.
Several Lions cried while Vircillo led the team in prayer on the field after the game.
"I feel bad," Vircillo said. "I feel their emotional pain. I would be concerned if they were not crying. Know what I mean?"
The No. 2 Lions (10-1) swung ahead, 21-14, with 11:44 remaining in the third quarter. Junior Christian Tutela floated an option pass up the right sideline to senior wide receiver Bill Belford for 61 yards and a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage of the second half. Senior Liem Dolly followed with his third of four extra points.
With 6:46 left in the third quarter, Lacey junior quarterback Tom Kelly threw an interception, giving the Dragons the ball at their 31 and setting up a touchdown. Irvin scored on an 11-yard burst up the middle with three minutes remaining and senior Tyler Bell booted the PAT, tying the game at 21.
An Irving 10-yard touchdown run up the middle and Bell's PAT put Kingsway in front, 28-21, with 10:09 left in the game. The Lions responded with a 2-yard run up the middle by Tutela to tie the game at 28 with 5:23 to go.
Lacey won Shore Conference Class A South at 7-0 in its first year in the division.
"I am not real disappointed in it," Vircillo said of the campaign. "I felt we would be about .500 in Class A South, which is as legitimate a division as you can get. Winning that title is something to be proud of. The kids right now don't understand it, but they will."