Defending-Champion Jackson Memorial Crushes Steinert to Reach Central Jersey Group IV Final
HAMILTON -- It has been an up and down season for Jackson Memorial on the heels of winning a sectional title and finishing as the No. 1 team in the Shore Conference, but come playoff time the Jaguars have certainly played like champions.
The defending-champion Jaguars cemented a return trip to the sectional final by blasting host Steinert 56-10 on Saturday afternoon in the semifinals of the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III playoffs. Junior running back Mike Gawlik ran for 156 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries to lead a Jackson rushing attack that ran for 367 yards. Senior quarterback Kyle Johnson ran for 118 yards and touchdown and senior fullback Connor Testa added 93 yards and a touchdown.
Jackson (7-4) will play top-seeded Brick Memorial (9-2) in the championship game at 4 p.m. on Saturday Dec. 4 at Rutgers University's High Point Solutions Stadium.
Gawlik opened the scoring with a six-yard touchdown run that was set up by a 40-yard run by Johnson. A fumble on a punt return by Jackson gave Steinert a short field, and the Spartans quickly tied the game on a 15-yard touchdown run by sophomore Jordan Morrison. Another Jackson turnover on an interception led to a 22-yard field goal by Jordan Goodarz, putting Steinert up 10-7 with 6:17 left in the first half.
The Jaguars would answer immediately, however, with a five-play, 65-yard scoring drive to take a 14-10 lead. Gawlik had runs of 19 and 36 yards to set up his own 1-yard plunge with 4:20 left in the half. On the second play of the ensuring Steinert possession, senior defensive back Jared Calhoun intercepted Spartans quarterback Kyle Muller and returned it 15 yards for a touchdown. Jackson led 21-10 at the half and never looked back.
An interception by Johnson early in the third quarter led to his own 47-yard touchdown run and a 28-10 lead. After a Steinert three-and-out, Jackson took a 35-10 lead when Johnson capped a five-play, 67-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown pass to senior Vinny Lee. Johnson had an 18-yard run on the drive, and Gawlik put the ball in the Steinert red zone with a 29-yard run.
Testa made it 42-10 when he blocked a punt and returned it 15 yards for a touchdown, and another blocked punt late in the third quarter set up sophomore fullback Tom Pellone for a one-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter. Testa put the finishing touches on the blowout victory with an 87-yard touchdown run with under two minutes to play.
Jackson’s defense held Steinert to 120 total yards and forced four turnovers on interceptions by Johnson, Calhoun, senior Kyle Lona and junior Nick Tremmel.
Jackson Memorial 56, Steinert 10
Jackson (7-4) 7 14 21 14 – 56
Steinert (7-3) 0 10 0 0 – 10
JM – Mike Gawlik 6-yard run (Jared Calhoun kick)
S – Jordan Morrison 15-yard run (Jordan Goodarz kick)
S – Jordan Goodarz 22-yard field goal
JM – Mike Gawlik 1-yard run (Jared Calhoun kick)
JM – Jared Calhoun 15-yard interception return (Jared Calhoun kick)
JM – Kyle Johnson 47-yard run (Jared Calhoun kick)
JM – Kyle Johnson 2-yard pass to Vinny Lee (Jared Calhoun kick)
JM – Connor Testa 15-yard blocked punt return (Jared Calhoun kick)
JM – Tom Pellone 1-yard run (Jared Calhoun kick)
JM – Connor Testa 87-yard run (Jared Calhoun kick)
Rushing – JM: Mike Gawlik 21-156, Kyle Johnson 7-118, Connor Testa 4-93, Team 3-(-21); S: Jordan Morrison 8-34, Alex Rubio 12-22, Kyle Gankiewicz 2-17, Kyle Muller 1-(-1); Kyle Fischer 1-(-5).
Passing – JM: Kyle Johnson 4-8-0 34; S: Kyle Gankiewicz 4-8-1 30, Kyle Muller 2-16-3 25, Jordan Morrison 1-1-0 -1, Alex Rubio 0-1-0 0.
Receiving – JM: Kyle Lona 1-12, Tom Pellone 1-12, Tyler Towns 1-8, Vinny Lee 1-2; S: Jordan Morrison 3-28, Angelo Sanger 1-20, Connor Braddock 1-5; Kyle Fischer 2-1.
Interceptions – JM: Jared Calhoun 1-15, Nick Tremmel 1-5, Kyle Johnson 1-5, Kyle Lona 1-0; S: Jack Johnson 1-0.