Football: Walt Krystopik Steps Down as Jackson Memorial Head Coach
After six years at the helm of his alma mater, Walt Krystopik has resigned as the head football coach at Jackson Memorial.
“I stepped down to spend more time with my family,” Krystopik said. “I’ve been there since 1998 when I was a volunteer coach for Chris Barnes, so you spend that kind of time in a place and it’s tough to walk away. I wanted to make sure everything was taken care of before I resigned and I’m sure Mr. (Rob) Paneque, our AD, will find someone to carry on what all the coaches in Jackson history have done.”
Krystopik went 44-22 during his tenure at Jackson Memorial and led the Jaguars to a pair of state championships in 2014 and 2015. The Jaguars also won the Class A South division title in 2013. Krystopik was selected as the Shore Sports Network Football Coach of the Year in 2014 and was named the 2015 New Jersey Football Coach of the Year by NJ.com.
Krystopik was the defensive coordinator under Mike Smith from 2004-2010 before being hired as the head coach in 2011. In his first year he led the Jaguars to an 8-2 record and a spot in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV playoffs where they lost to eventual state champion Sayreville. Following a 3-7 season in 2012, Jackson rebounded with an 8-3 record in 2013 that set the stage for a two-year championship run.
In 2014 the Jaguars finished as the No. 1 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 and as the No. 2 team and top public school in the NJ.com rankings, winning the Central Jersey Group IV championship with a 21-18 victory over Middletown South. The Jaguars’ only loss that season was an 30-24 setback to an excellent Brick team, but they would avenge that loss with a 44-0 thrashing of the Dragons in the state sectional semifinals. Following the loss to Brick in Week 4, Jackson won its final eight games of the season, including a 33-27 overtime win over Red Bank Catholic that ended the Caseys 40-game Shore Conference winning streak. RBC went on to win the Non-Public Group III title and Jackson was the only team to defeat them.
The 2014 team featured a ferocious group of seniors leading the offensive and defensive lines, plus an undersized sophomore running back named Mike Gawlik that would go on to have an all-time career for the Jaguars.
“That was a special group of kids,” Krystopik said. “We put them out there as sophomores and to see them grow as a group to what they were as seniors was great.”
In 2015 Jackson shrugged off a three-game losing streak in the middle of the season to win its second straight and fifth sectional title overall, blasting A South rival Brick Memorial, 42-14, in the Central Jersey Group IV final. Jackson faced several obstacles in 2015 with injuries decimating its offensive line and knocking its starting quarterback out for multiple games, yet Krystopik had the Jaguars ready to go when it mattered. The team moved its best wide receiver, senior Kyle Johnson, to quarterback and it made all the difference in the playoffs. Teams now had to account for two running threats in Johnson and Gawlik, and the result was Jackson outscoring its opponents 119-31 in three playoff games.
“That was special in its own way, just from the perspective of losing so many quality kids to graduation, then injury,” Krystopik said. “Dylan Smith hurt his ACL and was out all year. Chris Mondello dislocated his knee and had to work his way back. Our quarterback Dan Barker got hurt. We had to move people around but the kids never gave up on the season.”
Last season the Jaguars went 6-5, losing to eventual champion Allentown in the Central Jersey Group IV semifinals. Gawlik concluded his record-setting career by rushing for a Shore Conference-best 2,129 yards and 24 touchdowns to pass Jaguars legend Nick Castellano as the program’s all-time leading single-season and career rushing leader, as well as the leader in career touchdowns and touchdowns in a season.
“What Mike did was very special,” Krystopik said. “Even as a youngster when we brought him up (as a freshman), he picked off a pass against Jackson Liberty and brought it back for a touchdown. He stepped in as a sophomore and was the guy.”
Krystopik was a fullback and linebacker for the Jaguars during his playing career from 1988-1992. He remains a special education math teacher at Jackson Memorial.
“I’m proud the way my teams played, like Jackson kids have always played,” Krystopik said. “Win or lose they played until the final whistle and as hard as they could. Going back to Mike Smith and Chris Barnes, I just wanted to continue what they started.”
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