Football – No. 9 Brick Shuts Down No. 5 Jackson Memorial in Class A South
BRICK TOWNSHIP — It took only one play for Brick to seize the momentum, and just two plays to take the lead. From there, the Green Dragons never looked back.
Ja’Sir Taylor’s 54-yard option pass to John Prato on the game’s first offensive play led to senior quarterback Anthony Costanza scoring on a six-yard touchdown run just 44 seconds into the game. What followed was a stellar and complete effort in all three phases as Brick, ranked No. 9 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, took down No. 5 Jackson Memorial, 29-6, in a key Shore Conference Class A South game on Friday night at Keller Memorial Field.
The Dragons defeated the Jaguars for the third straight time in the regular season behind a defense that kept Jackson off the scoreboard until the closing minutes of the game. The defense made three stops on fourth down, the special teams unit blocked a pair of punts and recovered a fumble, and the offense rolled up over 250 yards on the ground to put Brick at 2-0.
“It was a complete team game,” said Brick head coach Len Zdanowicz. “Our special teams really stepped up, our offense played well, our defense played well; the kids responded.”
Costanza ran for 92 yards and three touchdowns while Taylor also had 92 yards and a touchdown run, plus the big pass play to Prato to open up the game. Junior Josh Garrett blocked two punts, junior Nick Malta and senior Jay Obenauer recovered fumbles, and senior defensive lineman Jack Finelli and senior linebacker Dean Helstowski led a rejuvenated run defense.
Stopping Jackson Memorial senior running back Mike Gawlik was the focus on every play, and even though Gawlik finished with a game-high 115 yards rushing on 18 carries, he wasn’t able to take over the game like he has so many times over his brilliant career. He had two long runs totaling 82 yards, but was otherwise kept in check.
“We knew there was one guy we had to key on and that’s Mike Gawlik,” Helstowski said. “We had a little bit of a chip on our shoulder because we knew Gawlik was going for a career rushing record this week. We were making sure he wasn’t getting that on our field.”
Gawlik entered the game needing 152 yards to break Nick Castellano’s program record of 2,992 yards. Gawlik set the Jaguars’ touchdown record (41) during Week One.
Friday’s performance was especially satisfying for a defense that felt it underperformed against Brick Memorial in Week One, albeit in a 28-14 win.
“The (defensive) lineman didn’t play very well against Brick Memorial,” Finelli said. “The coaches pushed us a lot this week.”
“(Jackson) doesn’t run a lot of plays - it’s stretch, iso, power, read-option - it’s a basic offense,” Helstowski said. “It’s about being more physical than them. Their thing is to play smash-mouth football and we matched that tonight and excelled in our game plan.”
Scoring in just two plays clearly set the tone for Brick (2-0, 2-0). Zdanowicz dialed up a trick play on the opening series when Taylor took a handoff on a jet sweep and pulled the secondary in before hitting a wide-open Prato for 54 yards. On the very next play, Costanza found room on a quarterback keeper for a six-yard touchdown and a lightning-quick 7-0 lead.
“We’ve worked on that play and it’s with two of our best kids,” Zdanowicz said. “Even if it doesn't work it’s not a bad play.”
Instead it was perfect, and jump-started everyone wearing the green and white.
“That was huge,” Helstowski said. “They bit on Ja’Sir because obviously he’s a dangerous weapon and Prato was wide open. It was a big momentum shift to start the game.”
Jackson went three-and-out on its first offensive series, but things went from bad to worse for the Jags (1-1, 0-1) when Garrett burst through the line to block the punt and give Brick the ball at the Jackson 21-yard line. John Bruno’s 27-yard field goal made it 10-0 with 6:11 left in the opening quarter.
“Rob Spinello told me he was going to open a hole for me and he did,” Garrett said. “It was all thanks to him.”
On the second play of Jackson’s next possession, Taylor made another critical play when he saved a touchdown by using his blazing speed. Gawlik zipped through an opening and appeared to be on his way to a long touchdown run. Taylor was able to catch him from behind a bring him down at the 10-yard line, however. His hustle play loomed large when Brick stopped Jackson on four straight plays to turn the ball over on downs.
“That was huge because it could have changed he game,” Finelli said. “They score there and that’s a momentum-changer.”
Jackson hit another big play midway through the second quarter when senior quarterback Dan Barker hooked up with Trevor Louro for a 60-yard gain down to the Brick 19-yard line. A big stop by Garrett for a six-yard loss on third down put the Jaguars in a fourth-and-9 hole, and the Dragons came up with the stop by forcing an incomplete pass.
Brick took over with 4:05 left in the half and marched 82 yards in 12 plays to take a 16-0 lead into the break. A 16-yard run by Taylor and a 23-yard run by Costanza put the ball inside the Jackson 25-yard line, but after Costanza was sacked with under a minute left, Brick had to use its final timeout.
That led to an fire-drill finish to the half.
Costanza hit sophomore Cole Groschel for 13 yards, but he appeared just short of gaining a first down at the 2-yard line. Brick could not stop the clock with a timeout and there were just 3.8 seconds left. But with the ball being close to the first-down marker, the officials called for a measurement. It was confirmed Groschel was short of the first down, but the chain gang walking out to measure gave Brick time to set up right at the line of scrimmage. Once the ball was spotted it was snapped to Costanza, who plowed in for the score as the clock hit zero.
Jackson had good field position to start the second half, beginning at its own 38-yard line. Barker hit Louro for 24 yards down to the 35, but three straight incompletions brought up fourth down. Brick’s defense forced another off-target pass to get the ball back on downs once again.
Later in the third quarter, Garrett blocked a punt that gave Brick the ball at Jackson’s 15-yard line. A penalty pushed the Dragons back, but Costanza came through with a 20-yard touchdown run for a 23-0 Brick advantage. Early in the fourth quarter, Malta’s fumble recovery on a muffed punt put Brick at the Jackson 22-yard line. Taylor brought the ball to the 1-yard line with a 16-yard run, then finished off the drive with a one-yard score.
Barker spoiled the shutout with an 8-yard touchdown run that was set up by a 35-yard run by Gawlik, but it had no bearing on Brick coming away with a hard-fought and much-needed A South victory.
“We practiced hard and we were confident coming in,” Costanza said. “We came out and got the ‘W’.”
Brick is now halfway through its brutal four-game, season-opening gauntlet of Brick Memorial, Jackson Memorial, Toms River North and St. John Vianney. Brick’s defense has faired well against the running games of the Mustangs and Jaguars, but will be uniquely tested against the No. 2 Mariners’ high-flying offense led by dual threat quarterback Mike Husni. The Mariners beat Brick Memorial, 40-12, on Friday night to improve to 2-0 and win their 12th straight game.
“Right now we’re 2-for-2, but we have another hard one Saturday night in Toms River,” Zdanowicz said. “We’re going to have to be ready to go against a real good football team.”
No. 9 Brick 29, No. 5 Jackson Memorial 6
Jackson Mem. (1-1, 0-1) 0 0 0 6 — 6
Brick (2-0, 2-0) 10 6 7 6 — 29
B - Anthony Costanza 6-yard run (John Bruno kick)
B - John Bruno 27-yard field goal
B - Anthony Costanza 2-yard run (John Bruno kick)
B - Anthony Costanza 20-yard run (kick failed)
B - Ja’Sir Taylor 1-yard run (kick failed)
JM - Dan Barker 8-yard run (pass failed)
Rushing - JM: Mike Gawlik 18-115, Dan Barker 6-46; B: Anthony Costanza 26-92, Ja’Sir Taylor 9-92, Rashon McCall 4-44, Cole Groschel 3-22, Jay Obenauer 4-18.
Passing - JM: Dan Barker 3-13-0 87; B: Anthony Costanza 4-7-0 26, Ja’Sir Taylor 1-1-0 54, Cole Groschel 0-1-0 0.
Receiving - JM: Trevor Louro 3-87; B: John Prato 4-67, Cole Groschel 1-13.
Football editor Bob Badders can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.