Lacey, Bodolus playing key roles for unbeaten Berks Catholi

While Daniel Boone’s improbable run to the District 3-AAA football semifinals is one of the main storylines of the area season, a duo of former Blazers will be playing for a district championship this weekend.

Pop Lacey and Eric Bodolus, both of Douglassville, have been a couple of key cogs for a well-oiled Berks Catholic machine.

Lacey, Bodolus and the top seeded Saints (12-0) face Berks League Section 2 rival Wyomissing (11-1) Saturday night at Hersheypark Stadium at 6 p.m. for the District 3-AA crown.

Berks Catholic has a few other local ties — head coach Rick Keeley is a St. Pius X grad, split end Tanner Pajakinas is also from Douglassville and freshman Trevor Leamer is the son of former Upper Perkiomen head coach Keith Leamer.

Lacey and Bodolus, meanwhile, have more than made themselves at home at Berks Catholic. They are two of five players who start on both sides of the ball for the Saints — Lacey as a running back and outside linebacker; Bodolus as an offensive guard and inside linebacker.

The two, who travel to school together each day, have helped the Saints go 26-1 over the past two seasons.

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A three-sport athlete who is a shooting guard in basketball and pitcher/shortstop in baseball, the 6-foot, 175-pound Lacey has perhaps done his best work on the gridiron.

He has rushed for a team-high 918 yards and 14 touchdowns (with an 8.8 yards per carry average) and collected 15 receptions for 217 yards and five more TDs while providing a home-run presence in the return game as well.

“He’s a threat any time he touches the ball to go the distance,’ Keeley said. “And when he’s not running the ball or catching it, he’s a very good blocker.’

After suffering through an injury-riddled sophomore campaign at Boone in 2012, Lacey transferred to Berks Catholic prior to the start of his junior season, citing the need for a change of scenery.

He made an immediate impact, rushing for 918 yards and 10 touchdowns while also amassing 297 receiving yards and three TDs on 13 catches for a team that won the district title and advanced to the PIAA semifinals.

“I just try to do my part,’ Lacey said. “I try to run hard when I get the ball, and block as best as I can for my teammates.’

That attitude isn’t just confined to Friday nights and Saturday afternoons, according to Keeley.

“I mean, Pop works hard every day at practice,’ Keeley said. “He sets a great example for our younger kids. Whenever he runs a play, he runs it 30 yards, full speed.’

Lacey has shown that speed on countless occasions this year for the Saints, who are ranked fourth in the state in Class AA by Pennsylvania Football News.

He opened the season with a 155-yard, two-TD performance in a season-opening 42-20 win over Muhlenberg and hasn’t let up.

In a 54-28 win over Schuylkill Valley in Week 6, Lacey had a hat trick of sorts — a 59-yard punt return touchdown, a 13-yard scoring reception and a three-yard TD run.

“He’s just a great, dynamic athlete who can do a lot of things,’ Bodolus said of Lacey.

In the postseason, Lacey has managed to turn it up a notch with a combined 306 rushing yards and three TDs in 3-AA wins over Biglerville (39-3) and Newport (48-0).

“It’s been a phenomenal ride, being able to do this as a senior,’ Lacey said. “The most important thing is having fun playing the game you love. We’re all just excited.’

Lacey is also excited about the success of his former teammates. He is still very close with Boone running back Paul Galanti, and came out to Brazinsky Field twice this year to see the Blazers play.

Saturday, however, his focus will be on another Berks squad — the Spartans, who gave the Saints all they could handle in Week 10 before Berks Catholic escaped with a 19-14 victory.

“We’re ready for the game,’ he said. “We know each other so well. It’s just going to be a great atmosphere, win or lose.’

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Bodolus is no stranger to big-game atmospheres. The son of highly successful former Daniel Boone coach Dave Bodolus and younger brother of former Blazers star quarterback/safety Tommy Bodolus, Eric got to view plenty of postseason action from the sidelines as a youngster.

Now Eric — the middle of a trio of brothers that includes Ryan (currently an eighth-grader) — is the one getting his chance in the limelight, and the 5-10, 205-pounder has taken to it like a duck to water.

The hard-hitting junior is a powerful force in Berks Catholic’s 4-2-5 defensive alignment, and has racked up a team-high 90 tackles.

“I just try to bring intensity and make big plays,’ Bodolus said.

“Eric is a solid, tough player,’ said Keeley. “He’s a real weight-room guy and he might be our most physical player. He’s very aggressive on defense. He plugs up the middle big-time.’

Bodolus also paves the way for the Saints’ high-powered offense, whether it’s springing Lacey, fellow back Marcus Wilson or multi-threat Isaac Lutz for big plays or protecting quarterback Patrick Causa.

“He’s fast enough to lead our speed sweep, but also strong enough and tough enough that when we run our inside trap we’re asking him to kick out a tackle that might be like 250 or 260,’ Keeley said. “And Eric can get that done.’

Bodolus arrived at Berks Catholic as a freshman three years ago, and during his career has been part of a squad that’s gone 35-2 over that span.

“It was a bit of an adjustment at first, but it’s been pretty much smooth sailing,’ Bodolus said.

And though he isn’t getting to play for his father, like Tommy did, Eric still absorbs plenty of feedback from Dave — most notably a weekly scouting report he puts together.

“He’s always watching film and telling me what to look for,’ Eric said. “And he comes every week (to the games). He’s enjoying it.’

As are Bodolus and Lacey, who hope to keep up a Saints run that has been nothing short of divine.

“Most high school teams don’t get to make the playoffs, let alone make the state semifinals, like we did last year,’ Bodolus said. “Now we’re getting a chance to play in Hershey again for a district championship. It was nice winning (against Wyomissing) in Week 10, but this is the one that really matters.’

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