Returning to Glory: Jackson Memorial Bests Brick for A South Title
BRICK — When Ken Bradley was coming up through the Jackson Memorial youth football program, he watched the high school team he’d one day star for become one of the Shore’s best. Since then he’s been doing everything he can to bring the Jaguars glory once more.
“Growing up this was one of the dominant programs in the Shore,” Bradley said. “Watching them go to a couple state championships and be ranked No. 1 in the tri-state, I wanted to be a part of that.”
On Friday night, Jackson Memorial played in its biggest game in nearly a decade, and Bradley and his teammates were there to return the program to its former glory.
Bradley was sensational on defense and also ran for a pair of key first downs late in the fourth quarter to lift Jackson Memorial, ranked No. 7 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, past No. 9 Brick, 9-7, to clinch the Shore Conference Class A South division title. It is the seventh division championship for the Jaguars (6-2, 6-1) and first since 2005 (American Division) when they also won the last of their three state sectional titles.
Sophomore kicker Jared Calhoun connected on a 26-yard field goal in the first quarter and senior running back Khani Glover ran for a second-quarter touchdown to give the Jaguars the lead, and their defense buckled down late in the game to seal victory. Ray Fattaruso ran for 103 yards and scored a fourth-quarter touchdown for the Dragons (6-3, 5-2), who had their bid to claim their first division crown since 2008 denied. Fattaruso touched the ball on nearly every play in the second half after quarterback Joe Phillips, who started again in place of injured junior Carmen Sclafani, had to leave with an injury.
“Sophomore year when we went to the playoffs I knew this was a team that could do some damage,” Bradley said. “Last year (3-7) was a little disappointing, but we knew this season we could do what people know Jackson has done traditionally, and that’s what we did tonight.”
“It’s really special to us,” Glover said. “We hadn’t won a title since 2005, and we wanted to bring it back to Jackson.”
It was tough sledding offensively for both teams throughout the game, but Jackson Memorial had hit a particular rough patch on both sides of the ball in the second half. The Jaguars did not have a first down in the second half and Brick, although unable to score, had put together back-to-back long drives. That’s when Jackson rose up to make a few key plays that decided the game.
Brick was inside the Jackson Memorial 25-yard line with a little over five minutes to play when a third-and-three came up. Brick had great success on short runs all game, but this time the Jaguars sniffed out a jet sweep to Mike Muratore and junior outside linebacker Zach Tetro flew in to make the stop for a four-yard loss.
“It was base defense and we knew somebody just had to make a play,” Bradley said. “One of our big slogans is ‘one play makes a difference.’ That one play came at the end with Zach Tetro making the play in the backfield.”
Brick punted, figuring its defense could get the ball back quickly as it had done for the majority of the game. But Jackson’s offense finally came to life to bring home the division title.
There was 4:32 on the clock, plenty of time for Brick to mount another drive and attempt to erase its two-point deficit. Instead, the Jaguars plowed ahead behind their offensive line to finish the job with three first downs. Quarterback Joe DeMaio picked up the most crucial gain when he scrambled away from pressure on a bootleg, raced to the first down marker and spun out of a tackle for a seven-yard gain on third-and-5. Three plays later, Glover surged for five yards on third-and-three, and Bradley sealed the win with a three-yard gain on fourth-and-inches.
“We didn’t have a lot of success with the traditional run game, but we stuck with it and got the first downs we needed to at the end,” Bradley said.
“We were going to hand the ball off to our biggest, thickest kid in Kenny Bradley and run behind our senior center and whatever happens, happens,” said Jackson Memorial head coach Walt Krystopik.
Krystopik played for Jackson Memorial in the late 1990s and had been an assistant under Mike Smith before being named head coach before the 2011 season. He’s seen the program transform from average to dominant, and now he’s helped guide the Jaguars back to the top.
“I’ve been here since the end of the Chris Barnes days and I remember losing a division title game here 10-0, and then two years ago to Southern,” Krystopik said. “It’s tough. Sooner or later you have to finish one of these off.”
The Jaguars took the lead early after capitalizing on the first of three fumbles lost for Brick in the first half. On a third-and-four from his own 31, Phillips dropped back to pass and was sacked by Jaguars senior linebacker Vinny Celidonio as he was readying to throw. The ball came free and was ruled a fumble, and senior Marcus Ademilola pounced on it at the Brick 10-yard line. The Dragons were able to keep the Jags out of the end zone, but Calhoun’s 26-yard field goal put Jackson up 3-0 with 8:38 left in the first quarter. Jackson would halt another Brick drive in the first quarter with a turnover. Brick moved to the Jackson 17 before Tetro forced a fumble that Mike Petrizzo recovered.
The game would remain 3-0 until late in the second quarter. Jackson started at its own 33 and moved across midfield thanks to a 16-yard pass from DeMaio to Glover, and then a 15-yard face mask penalty after a 3-yard run by Glover put the ball at the Brick 26. On first down, Glover skipped away from a diving Fattaruso in the backfield and raced untouched the rest of the way for a 26-yard touchdown. The extra point was no good after the holder was unable to get the snap down, but Jackson had extended its lead to 9-0 with 2:40 left in the half.
“We had to gameplan around him (Fattaruso), he’s tough,” Glover said. “But once I got past him it was just green.”
On the final series of the first half Phillips took a big shot from Petrizzo on a run up the middle and was shaken up. He came off the field with the help of the training staff and did not return. Sophomore quarterback Tom Zbranek took some snaps at quarterback in the second half, but carried just once. Over the final two quarters it was almost all Fattaruso and Mike Muratore running the ball for Brick.
The Dragons drove down to the Jaguars’ eight-yard line early in the third quarter, but Anthony Starego’s 25-yard field goal attempt clanged off the left upright and fell no good. The Dragons would then force Jackson three-and-out to get the ball back near midfield to start their only scoring drive of the game. Runs by Fattaruso and Muratore carried Brick down to the Jaguars’ five-yard line, where it took Fattaruso two plays to hammer in from two yards out. Starego’s extra point made it 9-7 with 9:24 left.
Jackson went three-and-out again, and it looked like Brick was going to march down the field and take the lead. But that’s when Jackson’s defense rose up with a key stop, and its offense did the rest to capture the A South division title.
“A South has to be one of the toughest divisions, not just in the Shore, but in the state,” Krystopik said. “There’s not a game you can’t be at your very best. A win’s a win. It doesn’t matter if it’s pretty or ugly, 62 points or 9 points.”
Jackson now turns its attention to the loaded South Jersey Group V bracket that features defending champion Williamstown, Cherokee and Eastern, which is quarterbacked by Tom Flacco, the younger brother of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco.
“As long as we stay healthy I think it’s a realistic goal to be in the South Jersey final,” Bradley said.
The playoffs start next week, but for now the Jaguars can celebrate coming out on top of the Shore’s toughest division. When the season began Jackson wasn’t really in the discussion among the teams expected to contend for the A South title. But at the end, they were the last team standing.
“You always have to come out (expecting to compete for a division title),” Glover said. “We went 3-7 last year but that means nothing. We wanted to come out here and surprise the Shore, and I think we did.”
No. 7 Jackson Memorial 9, No. 9 Brick 7
Jackson Memorial (6-2, 6-1) 3 6 0 0 – 9
Brick (6-3, 5-2) 0 0 0 7 – 7
JM – Jared Calhoun 26-yard field goal
JM – Khani Glover 26-yard run (run failed)
B – Ray Fattaruso 2-yard run (Anthony Starego kick)
Rushing – JM: Khani Glover 15-59, Ken Bradley 5-20, Aaron Curet 1-20, Joe DeMaio 4-7; B: Ray Fattaruso 25-103, Mike Muratore 9-51, Joe Phillips 11-43, Tim Cardoso 1-13, Tom Zbranek 1-6, Ja’sir Taylor 1-(-6).
Passing – JM: Joe DeMaio 4-7-0 58; B: Joe Phillips 4-6-0 30.
Receiving – JM: Marcus Ademilola 2-39, Khani Glover 1-16, Ken Bradley 1-3; B: Ray Fattaruso 2-25, Drew Scott 1-8, Ja’sir Taylor 1-(-3).