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JACKSON — In a season filled with adversity, Jackson Memorial turned disappointment into delirium with one clutch play.

Off a timeout with 33 seconds left in regulation, senior midfielder Scott Wedgeworth took a Peter Rinaldi pass from behind the crease and one-timed a shot into the back of the net to give the Jaguars a thrilling 7-6 victory over Kingsway in the first round of the NJSIAA South Jersey Group III Tournament on Saturday afternoon.

Kingsway had rallied to tie the game on an extra-man opportunity goal by junior attackman Bill Moran with 1:54 left in the game, and took control of the ensuing face-off. A loose-ball push on Kingsway gave the Jaguars possession with just over half a minute to play, and off the timeout they went with their man-up offense in an attempt to win the game. The Jaguars cycled the ball around until Jan Niec gave it to Rinaldi behind the net. He immediately found Wedgeworth with a precise pass to the right post, and Wedgeworth tucked it in to send the Jaguars into the sectional quarterfinals.

“We were trying to run our man-up against their zone to see if that look was there, and it wasn’t so we went back to our 1-4 and I was sitting on the crease wide open,” Wedgeworth said. “No one saw me. It was perfect.”

Jackson Memorial celebrates Scott Wedgeworth's game-winning goal with eight seconds left to beat Kingsway 7-6 in the first round of the NJSIAA South Jersey Group III playoffs.

“We only had 30 seconds left and I saw Scott and he was wide open, so there was no reason I shouldn’t have made the pass,” Rinaldi said. “This could’ve been the last game for a lot of kids so you have to take that chance. If we dropped it, we dropped it, but the chance was there, and we picked up on the opportunity.”

Junior attackman Troy Wolf led the Jaguars (9-8) with two goals and one assist and Niec, a senior midfielder, had a goal and two assists. Wedgeworth finished with one goal and one assist in addition to going 7-of-12 on face-offs. Senior defensive midfielder Vinny Celidonio, senior midfielder Jeff Galatola and junior attackman Alex Aguilar also scored for Jackson, while freshman goalie Dylan Furnback turned aside 10 shots to secure the win.

Jackson will play at top-seeded Shawnee (15-1) on Tuesday, hoping to keep its tremendous second-half run going. Since an 0-6 start, Jackson has gone 9-2 in its last 11 games with wins over Holmdel, Red Bank Catholic and Kingsway in the last three contests. The Jaguars were in the final of the Shore Conference Tournament two years ago and reached the semifinals last season. They missed this season’s tournament by one game, their bad start too much to overcome by the May 3 cutoff. Over the last two weeks they’ve played their best lacrosse, however, salvaging a season that didn’t look like it could be saved in mid April.

“It’s a huge win,” Wedgeworth said. “We came together after not making the (Shore Conference) Tournament and said we want to make a statement. After beating Holmdel and RBC, the five and four seeds, we showed maybe we should have made the SCT.”

“This definitely gives us a big lift,” Wolf said. “It was a heartbreaker not being able to make the tournament. We had some problems with the program in the beginning, but we stuck through it and our coach (James Buchanan) got our heads right. We came out the last couple weeks looking to show what we’re all about.”

It was all Jackson through the game’s first 12 minutes as the Jags raced out to a 3-0 lead after the first quarter. Celidonio got the scoring started with an unassisted goal off his own clear at 10:15, and Galatola made it 2-0 at 4:55 with a blast from the top of the box during an EMO. Jackson would capitalize on another man-up situation with 1:05 left in the opening quarter when Niec dished inside to Wolf, who zipped it past Kingsway goalie Gabe Lombardi for a 3-0 advantage.

Kingsway (6-10) cut the Jaguars’ lead to 3-2 at halftime with the only two goals of the second quarter. Sean Dunn found Moran with an inside pass that made it 3-1 at 6:58, and Moran assisted on a similar goal when he teamed up with Zack Craft on an EMO strike at 3:09.

Junior attackman Troy Wolf had two goals and one assist to lead the Jaguars' offense in their 7-6 victory over Kingsway in the first round of the NJSIAA South Jersey Group III Tournament.

Wolf pushed the Jaguars’ lead to 4-2 off a pass from Niec at 4:20 of the third quarter, but the Dragons answered with two goals in the final 1:17 to tie the score at four. Senior midfielder Nick Guglietti took a pass from Dunn and beat Furnback to make it 4-3, then David Floyd got a fortunate bounce when his long shot deflected in off defender Bobby Chitren with 11 seconds left in the quarter.

Each time Kingsway would draw close, however, Jackson would find an answer. Niec gave the Jaguars a 5-4 lead 57 seconds into the fourth quarter off a pass from Wedgeworth, and Aguilar finished off a tic-tac-toe passing play off a Celidonio clear and a quick feed from Wolf that put him one-on-one with the goalie.

Once more Kingsway would rally to tie the score, but again Jackson would fire back to pull ahead. Wedgeworth’s clutch goal kept the Jaguars’ season alive and gave them another moment to help erase their dreadful start to the season. Jackson graduated several standout players off last year’s team, but this year’s players still entered the season with the mentality they were a top team in the Shore. The finger-pointing and sullen atmosphere that accompanied their shocking start to the season has given way to a tight-knit unit riding a wave of momentum.

“The one thing our coach was trying to teach us was to not get down on each other and stay positive,” Wedgeworth said. “We got our ball-handling back and our goalie has been making crazy saves, but overall I think it’s been the way we treat each other that’s been the difference. We’re more of a family unit now.”

“These were our expectations in the beginning of the year,” Wolf said. “We’re where we want to be now, and we just have to keep going forward.”

They’ve proved to themselves they are the team deep down they always knew they were. Now they want to spread the word.

“We’re excited. We want to play Shawnee,” Wedgeworth said. “We want to prove something. They’re the team to beat, and if we can beat them we feel we can go all the way.”



Box Score 

8-Jackson Memorial 7, 9-Kingsway 6 

Jackson Memorial (9-8) 3 0 1 3 - 7

Kingsway (6-10)            0 2 2 2 - 6

GOALS - K: Nick Guglietti 2, Bill Moran 2, Zack Craft, David Floyd; JM: Troy Wolf 2, Jan Niec, Scott Wedgeworth, Jeff Galatola, Vinny Celedonio, Alex Aguilar.

ASSISTS - K: Sean Dunn 2, Bill Moran, Nick Guglietti; JM: Jan Niec 2, Troy Wolf, Scott Wedgeworth, Peter Rinaldi.

SAVES - K: Gabe Lombardi 11; JM: Dylan Furnback 10.

SHOTS: Jackson Memorial, 30-24.