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Former Lacey Township QB Becomes Main Man at Maine
Warren Smith understands the long road. He’s just a sophomore in college and already at his second school.
His first school, Iona College, discontinued the football program and sent the Lacey Township graduate in search of another football team last year. He landed at the University of Maine, one of his opponents from his rookie season.
Smith made his first start for the Black Bears, a Football Championship Subdivision team, over the weekend against Syracuse. It could be the first of many for the 6-foot-1, 190-pound quarterback.
“What we do on offense is feature what kids do best,” Maine quarterbacks coach Kevin Burgoine said. “(Smith) can throw the football. He brings the ability to be more consistent. That’s kind of why Warren is in the situation he is in right now.”
Lacey Township coach Lou Vircillo will tell you it’s a little more than just a good situation. He felt from the time Smith led Lacey to three South Jersey Group III finals, the Forked River resident had what it took to play for a Division I program, but Smith didn’t receive looks from big Division I schools while in high school.
Smith, 19, got interest from Colgate and Lafayette, both of the Patriot League, but neither situation worked since both schools had the quarterbacks it needed.
That’s when Vircillo reached out to coach Fred Mariani at Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y.
“Sometimes you feel the frustration of your athletes, especially when they want to compete on a higher level,” Vircillo said. “I wouldn’t have personally done that if I didn’t think he could play on that level.”
Smith’s first year was a success with Iona. He earned the starting job as a freshman and completed 127-of-234 passes for 1,347 yards and nine touchdowns in 10 games.
He did well in his start against Maine, too, where he threw for 122 yards and a touchdown.
Smith earned Iona’s rookie of the year award, but that’s all he would get from the Gaels.
Iona discontinued its program at the end of that season, which left almost 90 players without a team.
“We didn’t realize the program was going to close,” Vircillo said. “But it kind of worked out in his favor. That year almost served as a (post-secondary) prep year. He got to develop against some good competition and as he did that, he showcased himself.”
Once word came out that Smith needed a new team, Maine coaches remembered him from their game against Iona. They watched game film and decided to bring Smith in to add depth to the roster.
He quickly eclipsed their expectations. Smith went from a supporting role to sharing the quarterback duties to starting.
“We watched all games from last year. I knew he could throw,” Burgoine said. “I didn’t think he would throw as well as this since he got here.”
Smith has completed 42-of-64 passes for 517 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions in three games for the Black Bears (2-2). Mike Brusko, a senior, was Maine’s starting quarterback through the first three games, but Brusko lined up at wide receiver on Saturday.
Maine led 17-13 at halftime on Saturday, but Syracuse came back for a 41-24 win.
Maine is a solid team that opened the season in the FCS Top 25 poll. The Black Bears were ranked 19th in the country after losing in the first round of last year’s NCAA tournament. However, they dropped out of the poll in Week 3 after a 20-16 loss to Albany.
“I’ve always wanted to go to the college level and compete for a title,” Smith said. “It’s a great environment to play in. Everyone is real humble up here. They know their roles. If I could picture a collegiate program, this would be it.”
Smith earned the starting job after coming to preseason camp in better condition. He worked on footwork and learned an entire playbook over the summer.
“It wasn’t good how the program was dropped (at Iona). I thought I had a pretty good future there,” Smith said. “But it helped my status. People got to see me throw the football.”
Lacey had more of a running offense. The Lions didn’t throw the ball much more than 10 times a game, but Smith was involved on defense too.
“I had no complaint about not throwing the ball,” Smith said. “We were winning. That’s why you play the game.”
Former Lacey Township quarterback becomes main man at Maine
By SUSAN LULGJURAJ, Press of Atlantic City