By Rich Fisher
Sep. 8: Entering the season, Steinert football coach Dan Caruso was pretty sure he had a good thing going with his defensive front seven.
After one game, he is very sure.
The Spartans allowed scoring drives on Lacey’s first and last possessions of the game in a 14-6 loss Saturday; but were outstanding in between as they held down a Lions team that has effectively run the football in the Shore Conference for decades.
After Lacey drove down the field with little resistance to take a 7-0 lead on its first series, it was held to 98 yards on its next six possessions.
“They stepped up,” Caruso said. “I think that first drive was a wake-up call, a ‘welcome to the season.’ They got to see how physical that team is, but after that they settled in and started playing great football. A couple guys really played their hearts out. A kid like (linebacker) Chris Nitti played well today unfortunately he went down. Next man up, Arise Ceide steps in, a young sophomore and plays great football.”
Defensive coordinator Bill James made one key adjustment after Lacey’s first scoring drive, moving to an eight-man front.
“I think it did make a difference,” linebacker Cody Young said. “They had some strong guys with that fullback so that helped us in the middle.”
The defense was put in some precarious positions due to some turnovers and misplays, as Lacey started three drives in Spartan territory. But the home team held every time. On the last drive, it appeared the Spartans were wearing down as Lacey ran 53 plays to the Spartans 37.
But Young didn’t use fatigue as an excuse.
“I think we were all right,” he said. “I just told everybody to keep going. We never stopped, we never will.”
It was a group effort for the Spartans, who got strong play from linebackers Nitti, Young, Deklin Smith and Griffin Hewitt, and linemen Josh James, Jordan Allwood, Savion Cooper and Ronnie Kinnunen.
“I love the energy, the chemistry, everything we have,” Young said. “They were a very tough team but I think we came out pretty good.”
Another bright spot was the play of a completely revamped secondary, which had a breakdown on Lacey’s first TD but played strong after that.
“I think they’re doing great,” Young said. “We’re mentoring them and doing everything we can. I think they’re doing great for how young they are.”
Lou Vircillo, who has coached NFL players in his 39 years as Lacey coach, agreed with Young.
“We forced the ball,” Vircillo said. “We weren’t sure what our receivers could do against their DBs; and their DBs seemed to cover us pretty good.”
Caruso was not happy with the loss, but was pretty pleased with his defense.
“The mentality on defense has always been everybody do their job and get to the football and they did it all day,” he said. “We gotta build off it, and we will.”
Offense is another story, however, as the Spartans gained just 125 yards as they break in an entirely new offensive line.
“Unfortunately they played in our backfield today,” Caruso said. “ We gave a little too much up front, we’ve gotta be more sound and aggressive in our blocking and we’ve been preaching all preseason we gotta take what the defense gives us, we can’t be too greedy. Football’s a simple game if you don’t get greedy.”