The combination of quarterback Tom Kelly and wideout Christian Tutela was at its best Saturday night for Lacey. And that was very much needed by the No. 3 Lions, who had to fend off a strong challenge from unranked Toms River North.
Tutela scored on a 30-yard pass in the third quarter, his third touchdown reception of the game, lifting Lacey to a 34-22 victory over the upset-minded Mariners in a Shore Conference Class A South game.
In two games, Kelly has thrown for seven touchdowns. Tutela has been on the other end of five of them.
Their TD in the third quarter wiped out a 15-13 lead for Toms River North. Tutela also scored on touchdown passes of 4 and 80 yards in the first half and he rushed for 36 yards.
Kelly’s numbers were impressive, too: 14 of 22 for 212 yards. One pass was intercepted by Evan Sirota. The target on Kelly’s fourth touchdown pass was Chris Jensen on a 37-yarder in the fourth quarter. Jensen, a senior running back, rushed for 81 yards.
Lacey (2-0, 1-0) didn’t lose any regular-season games a year ago. The Lions rolled to a 61-7 tally over Pinelands for this season’s opening weekend and scored 47 points in the first half of that contest.
This time it was Lacey’s opponent doing most of the scoring in the first half. The Mariners (0-2, 0-1) put together a marvelous 80-yard, 14-play drive to end the first quarter and erase a deficit with Caleb Lewis scoring on a one-yard run and freshman quarterback Mike Husni finding 6-foot-5 receiver Jordan Craig in a crowd at the back of the end zone for a two-point conversion pass. It gave Toms River North an 8-7 lead.
The longest gain of the touchdown drive was Ricky Carberry’s 18-yard scamper on an end-around. The Mariners gutted through four third-down conversions and they chopped 8:45 off the clock, an unheard of amount against Lacey’s defense.
The Husni-Craig two-pointer came from a fake kick. Husni, the holder, wheeled to the right side into the jaws of an overloaded defense but pulled up at the last instant to toss the ball to Craig.
Toms River North went ahead 15-7 on a 35-yard run by a healed Assante Moorer. Moorer left with an apparent ankle injury during the first scoring drive but contributed then with runs of 9 and 13 yards. He helped get the Mariners out a hole on the second touchdown drive. Lacey’s Chandler Hammer sacked quarterback Mark Neglio for a 10-yard loss but Moorer got that yardage back on the next play and Neglio hit Sirota with a 35-yard pass. Moorer got loose for his scoring run on the next play with 2:26 left in the second quarter.
That’s when Kelly heated up again. Kelly completed his first seven passes for 59 yards, and threw four yards to Tutela for the game’s first touchdown. Kelly then went cold, missing on six straight pass attempts, partially thanks to stepped up pass rushes by Toms River North.
But when Lacey got the ball back after Moorer’s touchdown, Kelly on the first play threw to Tutela again on an under route, and it went for an 80-yard touchdown, though Lacey failed on a two-point conversion pass.