Matt Castronuova Stars in Debut as No. 6 Jackson Memorial Routs Toms River North
JACKSON — Matt Castronuova finally made his debut for Jackson Memorial, and he wasted no time showing what kind of impact he can make.
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On his first carry as a Jaguar, Castronuova took a jet sweep 71 yards for a touchdown, sparking a dominant effort by Jackson, ranked No. 6 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, in a 35-7 Shore Conference Class A South victory over Toms River North on Friday night at John J. Munley Field.
Castronuova later caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Joe DeMaio and finished with 165 total yards, his presence adding another dimension to a Jaguars’ offense already filled with underrated playmakers.
“The Board of Ed sat me out and that’s what I had to deal with,” Castronuova said. “I was real hungry, let’s say that. I haven’t played since last October and just playing tonight, I let it all out.”
Castronuova, a senior wide receiver and safety, transferred from Jackson Liberty over the summer after three seasons as a starter for the Lions, and was required to sit out 30 days of the regular season per the NJSIAA transfer rule.
Castronuova had been chomping at the bit to get on the field, and his teammates were just as excited to add a potential game-breaking player to their already dynamic roster. Having him score on his first touch only re-enforced what they already knew.
“That’s some way to make an entrance as a Jackson Jaguar,” DeMaio said. “A 70-yard touchdown on his first carry? He was ready.”
“I definitely had nerves, but I was just really excited,” Castronuova said. “My coaches asked me what my mindset was, and I said I was determined.”
DeMaio accounted for four total touchdowns with two rushing along with 50 yards, and two through the air on 7-for-8 passing for 114 yards. He tossed a 3-yard touchdown to senior tight end Brody Graham in the first quarter in addition to his 35-yard scoring strike to Castronuova late in the first half. He ran for a 2-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter and put Jackson up 35-0 in the third quarter with a 23-yard run.
Junior running back Asante Moorer finished with an even 100 yards on 18 carries for the Mariners (3-2, 2-2). Sophomore quarterback Mike Husni has had some dynamic games this season as an emerging dual-threat star, but Jackson (4-1, 3-1) held him to just 49 rushing yards and 38 passing yards. He did throw a 23-yard touchdown to Darrion Carrington late in the game to spoil the shutout.
“We definitely needed to key on Asante,” said senior lineman Glenn Kipila. “We watched him on film and he broke a lot of tackles. He’s a big, strong back and we knew he was going to run hard. And their short passes, which they hit a couple against (Toms River) South. We shut that down and played ball.”
A sack by junior defensive end Austin Ostrander stopped Toms River North’s first drive in its own end, and on the next offensive play it was Castronuova making his debut in style with a 71-yard touchdown run on a jet sweep. After taking the handoff he ran toward the visitor’s sideline before breaking tackles and cutting it all the way across the field for the score.
“You watch him in practice and he’s on scout (offense) when we’re on defense and nobody can cover him and no one can tackle him,” DeMaio said. “I hand the ball off and I thought maybe 10-15 yards, but then he breaks it and he’s going and he’s going. He makes people miss, and it adds a whole new dimension to our offense.”
By the time the Mariners would gain another first down Jackson would already own a 21-0 advantage. A sack by junior defensive end Tyler Towns helped force a three-and-out for Jackson’s defense to set up a 10-play, 57-yard scoring drive for the Jaguars to go up 14-0. DeMaio had a 14-yard run and Castronuova took another jet sweep for 12 yards to set up a 3-yard touchdown pass by DeMaio to Graham with 2:38 left in the first quarter.
Jackson forced another punt and took over at its own 14-yard line with 27 seconds left in the opening quarter. DeMaio engineered a 7-play, 86-yard touchdown drive that he capped with a 2-yard keeper for a 21-0 lead. DeMaio hit a streaking Aaron Curet, who extended to make the catch before tumbling forward, for 46 yards on the drive’s first play. Back-to-back runs of 14 and 12 by Castronuova set up DeMaio’s short scoring run.
Toms River North began to get its offense in rhythm midway through the second quarter, but a turnover halted any momentum the Mariners were beginning to gain. Husni and Moorer carried North all the way to the Jackson 16-yard line, but on second-and-eight Husni tried to flip a pass in the flat while being pressured, and the ball went on a backward trajectory as a fumble to be recovered by Jackson senior lineman Brad Greenway.
Starting from their own 20, the Jaguars mounted an 80-yard drive over nine plays to push their lead to 28-0. A balanced attack that featured four different ball carriers ended with DeMaio hitting Castronuova on a wheel route for a 35-yard touchdown with 31 seconds left in the first half.
“We ran it about two plays before that and I didn’t run the right route, so coach was freaking out for a little bit because it was there,” Castronuova said. “The play right before the half we ran it again and caught it for a touchdown.”
“During the timeout coach (offensive coordinator Corey) Lavin said it’s going to be open because they have been jumping everyone. I looked at Kyle (Johnson) and everyone ran with him, so I just chucked it up and let (Matt) go get it.”
DeMaio polished off his night with a 23-yard touchdown run after a botched snap on a punt gave Jackson possession inside the Toms River North 25. The Mariners would spoil the Jaguars’ bid for a shutout by driving 51 yards in nine plays. Husni hit Carrington, a sophomore wideout, for a 23-yard touchdown with under a minute left in the game.
One week after a heartbreaking overtime loss to Brick, Jackson was able to rebound with a near-perfect effort on both sides of the ball.
“The coaches told us to get the Brick game out of our minds, but keep the bad taste in our mouths,” DeMaio said. “We kept that in mind all through the week.”
And after a summer of uncertainty and frustration, Castronuova finally got to make his presence felt.
“After everything that happened during the summer with the transfer and stuff, it was a great feeling,” Castronuova said. “Nothing better.”
No. 6 Jackson Memorial 35, Toms River North 7
|Toms River North||Jackson Memorial|
Toms River North (3-2, 2-2) 0 0 0 7 – 7
Jackson Memorial (4-1, 3-1) 14 14 7 0 – 35
JM – Matt Castronuova 71-yard run (Jared Calhoun kick)
JM – Joe DeMaio 3-yard pass to Brody Graham (Jared Calhoun kick)
JM – Joe DeMaio 2-yard run (Jared Calhoun kick)
JM – Joe DeMaio 35-yard pass to Matt Castronuova (Jared Calhoun kick)
JM – Joe DeMaio 23-yard run (Jared Calhoun kick)
TRN – Mike Husni 23-yard pass to Darrion Carrington (Kyle Bayha kick)
Rushing – TRN: Asante Moorer 18-100, Mike Husni 20-49, Peter Colon 1-(-21); JM: Matt Castronuova 6-121, Joe DeMaio 9-50, Vinny Lee 9-28, Kyle Johnson 2-17, Mike Gawlik 6-9.
Passing – TRN: Mike Husni 5-8-0 38; JM: Joe DeMaio 7-8-0 114.
Receiving – TRN: Darrion Carrington 3-30, Calvin Jackson 2-8; JM: Aaron Curet 1-46, Matt Castronuova 2-44, Kyle Johnson 2-13, Brody Graham 2-11.
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