*Click here for a photo gallery by Bill Normile*

JACKSON — After all the big plays and potential game-changing moments, Saturday’s Shore Conference Class A South showdown between Brick and Jackson Memorial fittingly came down to one play in an epic ending at John J. Munley Field.

With the Jaguars trailing by six points in overtime and facing a fourth-and-3 from the Brick 17, junior outside linebacker Jordan Keefe held his ground and met Jackson Memorial quarterback Joe DeMaio right at the line of scrimmage before teammates Tommy Leech and Joe Phillips helped him drive DeMaio back for a one-yard loss. That stop gave the Green Dragons a thrilling 30-24 overtime victory over the defending Class A South champions in a classic battle between two undefeated teams.

“DeMaio came for the waggle and tried to get the corner on me, but I held the edge,” Keefe said.  “He tried to run around me but I got him. We got him this year.

“We knew this game was going to come down to inches, and it literally came down to inches.”

Brick senior quarterback Carmen Sclafani scored the go-ahead touchdown on Brick’s overtime possession on a 1-yard keeper, and earlier threw the game-tying touchdown on fourth down with 4:49 left in regulation to help Brick, ranked No. 2 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, pass its biggest test so far and improve to 4-0.

Brick senior quarterback Carmen Sclafani (15) combined for 266 total yards and four touchdowns in a 30-24 victory over Jackson Memorial. (Photo by Bill Normile).

“We knew we were going to face adversity and we were prepared, but I didn’t think we’d face this much,” Sclafani said. “Going into overtime, that’s the max. We dug down as deep as we could, and we had enough to pull it out.”

No. 7 Jackson Memorial and its physical defense gave defending NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV champion Brick (4-0, 4-0) all it could handle, but the Dragons’ offense was able to score in the most crucial of moments behind their dynamic quarterback. Sclafani ran for 141 yards on 17 carries, including an 87-yard touchdown in the second quarter, along with the eventual game-winning score in overtime. He also threw for 125 yards with a 48-yard touchdown to senior tight end Simon Bingelis and a 7-yarder to senior wide receiver Ja’Quez Johnson that tied the game late in the fourth quarter.

“You have to give a lot of credit to Jackson’s defense,” said Brick head coach Rob Dahl. “They had a great gameplan and stopped us on multiple drives, but give our offense a lot of credit because they met some adversity and were able to come back and make big plays to score.”

Jackson’s senior-laden offensive and defensive lines were the driving forces for the Jaguars (3-1, 2-1) throughout the game. They paved the way for junior tailback Vinny Lee to run for a game-high 165 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, including an 80-yard touchdown run on Jackson’s first offensive play. Defensively, the Jaguars frustrated Brick for much of the first half. Outside of Sclafani’s long touchdown run, the Dragons were held to 14 rushing yards and Sclafani was limited to 8-of-17 passing for 48 yards through halftime. The Jaguars ended up out-gaining Brick 337-296.

“Hats off to Jackson because they’re one hell of a team and they’re going to have one hell of a season,” Sclafani said. “That’s the best D-line we might face all year. They’re big and physical, and their skill guys are really good. They’re just a really good team.”

“We knew after watching Jackson on film they were the real deal, and I told the guys the other night on the (Shore Sports Network Investors Bank High School Football Show) this is the best Jackson team I’ve seen in 13 years,” Dahl said. “Our kids just hung in there. Jackson made the big plays we knew they were capable of making and our kids just battled and kept it close, and we took it at the end.”

Neither team held more than a one-touchdown lead throughout the game, and both offenses were able to cash in on clutch drives that produced five lead changes. Brick’s drive to tie the game at 24 and force overtime came after Johnson intercepted DeMaio on a pass that was deflected at the line of scrimmage, giving the Dragons the ball at the Jackson 40 with 7:48 left in the fourth quarter.

An 11-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Ja’Sir Taylor, then a 21-yard run by Sclafani moved the ball to the Jackson 3-yard line, but the Jaguars’ dropped senior running back Ray Fattaruso for a three-yard loss on first down, then tripped up Sclafani to push the ball back two yards to the seven. After an incompletion to Bingelis, Brick sent its offense back onto the field for a fourth-and-goal play. Jackson blitzed, but Sclafani was able to roll to his right to buy some time. His first read was covered, but he saw Johnson coming across the field and hit him in stride in the back right corner of the end zone.

“I rarely look at the backside drag, but I had to there because I had no other option,” Sclafani said. “I just threw it up, and you can always trust Ja’Quez when you throw it up to him.”

KC Stackable’s extra point tied the score at 24 to set the stage for overtime. Brick got the ball first and scored in four plays, keyed by an 18-yard run by Fattaruso that gave the Dragons first-and-goal from the 3.

Jackson got off to the best start possible in taking a 7-0 lead in the first four minutes. The Jaguars’ defense forced a three-and-out, then, after a muffed punt gave Brick the ball right back at the 45-yard line, stuffed the Green Dragons again in three plays to get the ball back at their own 20-yard line. On the first play, Lee broke a run outside and raced down the visiting sideline for an 80-yard touchdown. The Jungle was rocking.

Brick responded with a 14-play, 70-yard drive that produced a 31-yard field goal by Stackable to cut Jackson’s lead to 10-7. Brick had a fourth-and-3 at the Jackson 16 and lined up for a field goal, but an offsides call on Jackson kept the drive alive and allowed Stackable a closer shot at three points.

Jackson drove all the way to Brick’s 20-yard line on its next drive, but on a completion from DeMaio to senior tight end Brody Graham, Brick senior safety Tommy Leech delivered a hit that forced a fumble that the Dragons recovered at their own 13-yard line. Two plays later, Sclafani tucked the ball and took off on an 87-yard touchdown run to give Brick it’s first lead, 10-7, with 8:19 left in the first half.

“It was a pass and I scrambled because it opened up in front of me,” Sclafani said. “It was really the block by Ja’Quez downfield that sprung the touchdown. If it wasn’t for him I would’ve gotten caught.”

The teams alternated three-and-outs on the next four possessions before Jackson got the ball back at its own 34 with 1:31 left in the first half. Junior defensive lineman Dan Finelli sacked DeMaio on first down for a five-yard loss, but sophomore Mike Gawlik ran for 18 yards on the next play to move the ball just shy of midfield.

Jackson then went to its bag of tricks to take a lead into halftime. On first down, junior wide receiver Kyle Johnson took a pitch on a reverse and looked to throw downfield. His initial read looked to be DeMaio sneaking out of the backfield, but he instead was able to hit a streaking Aaron Curet for a 52-yard touchdown and a 14-10 lead.

Coming out of the half, the Jaguars received and proceeded to march 64 yards in 10 plays to up their lead to 17-10. Johnson hauled in a pass from DeMaio on third-and-4 and turned it into a 40-yard catch and run down to the Brick 18-yard line. Lee ran for 16 yards on third-and-10  to give Jackson a first-and-goal at the 2-yard line, but Brick’s defense stiffened and forced the Jags to settle for a 22-yard field goal by Calhoun.

Brick need to answer right away, and did so with a 7-play, 77-yard drive to tie the score at 17. Sclafani kept the drive going with a 6-yard run on third-and-3 from his own 31, then connected with Taylor for 11 yards on third-and-7 from the 41. On the next play, Sclafani threaded a pass between two closing defenders to Bingelis, who raced the rest of the way for a 48-yard touchdown.

“I was a little slow with the read and got it to him a little late, but I thought I put enough on the ball,” Sclafani said. “I was praying it got through and it did by that much. We weren’t getting anything going and we needed one of those plays.”

Lee returned the ensuing kickoff 69 yards down to the Brick 27 to set up Jackson’s third touchdown for a 24-17 lead. DeMaio hit Graham for 10 yards on the final play of the third quarter, then found Johnson for 10 more down to the 2-yard line. Lee then plunged in for his second touchdown of the game to give Jackson a seven-point lead.

Leech returned the next kickoff 75 yards to the Jackson 15, but junior linebacker Adante Davis and Gawlik combined to drop Fattaruso for a 2-yard loss on fourth-and-3 to keep Brick out of the end zone.

Brick took over from there, however, limiting the Jaguars to just one first down over the final 10:31 of the fourth quarter plus overtime.

The highly-touted Dragons were pushed to the limit by a Jackson team that made its own case to be a championship squad on Saturday night, but found a way to come out on the winning end. With both teams aligned in Central Jersey Group IV, this could have been a preview of a playoff meeting down the road. If so, or if against another top-flight opponent, Brick now knows this year’s team has the guts and guile to win a tight game.

“Last year we had a different makeup of kids and they dealt with adversity really well,” Dahl said. “Now we know this group can win those close games and come back and win.”

“This says something about us,” Keefe said. “Southern, (Toms River) East, they’re good teams, but this was an elite team we played today. It was a clash of two elite teams and we came out on top.”


Box Score

No. 2 Brick 30, No. 7 Jackson Memorial 24 (OT)


Brick Jackson Memorial
First downs 11 11
Rushes-yards 27-171 35-200
Passing 12-23-0 7-13-1
Passing yards 125 137
Fumbles-lost 1-0 2-2
Penalties-yards 1-15 3-15


Brick (4-0, 4-0) 3 7 7 7 6 – 30

Jackson (3-1, 2-1) 7 7 3 7 0 – 24


Scoring summary

JM – Vinny Lee 80-yard run (Jared Calhoun kick)

B – KC Stackable 31-yard field goal

B – Carmen Sclafani 87-yard run (KC Stackable kick)

JM – Kyle Johnson 52-yard pass to Aaron Curet (Jared Calhoun kick)

JM – Jared Calhoun 33-yard field goal

B – Carmen Sclafani 48-yard pass to Simon Bingelis (KC Stackable kick)

JM – Vinny Lee 2-yard run (Jared Calhoun kick)

B – Carmen Sclafani 7-yard pass to Ja'Quez Johnson (KC Stackable kick)

B – Carmen Sclafani 1-yard run (kick failed)


Individual statistics

Rushing – B: Carmen Sclafani 17-141, Ray Fattaruso 8-30, Ja'Sir Taylor 2-0; JM: Vinny Lee 21-165, Mike Gawlik 6-27, Joe DeMaio 8-8.

Passing – B: Carmen Sclafani 12-23-0 125; JM: Joe DeMaio 6-12-1 85, Kyle Johnson 1-1-0 52.

Receiving – B: Simon Bingelis 3-66, Ja'Sir Taylor 5-47, Ja'Quez Johnson 2-8, Ray Fattaruso 2-4; JM: Kyle Johnson 3-62, Aaron Curet 1-52, Brody Graham 2-17, Vinny Lee 1-6.

Interceptions – B: Ja'Quez Johnson 1-0.