JACKSON – One of Southern’s issues this season has been offensive inconsistency in the first half of games, but the Rams reversed that trend on Monday to earn a major Class A South victory.

Ryan Comfort, Nick Fontana, Cade Johnson and Aniello Russo found the back of the net in the first quarter as Southern, ranked No. 3 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, built an early lead and sustained that momentum to defeat No. 8 Jackson Memorial, 9-4, in a Shore Conference Class A South game on Monday afternoon at the Jackson Justice Complex.

Comfort, a senior midfielder, led all scorers with three goals while Russo and Johnson each scored twice. Ryan McWhorter added a goal and two assists and goalie Luke Maul made three saves. Southern jumped out to a 5-1 lead after the opening 12 minutes and tacked on two more goals in each of the final two quarters to hand the Jaguars (5-1, 2-1) their first loss of the season and take control of a division they’re looking to win for the sixth straight season.

“(Jackson) is a very good team and a good defensive team, and they’ve played a lot of good lacrosse this year,” said Southern head coach John Pampalone. “We knew it would be a defensive battle and we were able to get some goals early, which allowed us to loosen up. This was a big A South win for us.”

“The past couple of games we’ve been really slow in the first half but we realized if we attacked their shorties we could come out and take over the game,” Comfort said. “At halftime Pamp told us to keep working like we did in the first quarter.”

Fontana and Comfort scored unassisted in the first 2:42 of the game to stake Southern (6-1, 3-0) to a 2-0 lead. Jackson answered less than a minute later on a quick passing play as Santo Porazzo came from X and found a cutting Matt Perillo. Southern would close the quarter with three straight goals, however, to build a cushion it would sustain for the rest of the game. McWhorter fed Johnson for a goal with six minutes left, then set up Comfort for a blast at 3:56 that made it 4-1. Russo’s unassisted goal with 1:06 left gave the Rams a 5-1 advantage.

The pace slowed in the second quarter with just seven combined shots and one goal. Jackson scored the only goal of the second when Sean Laverty muscled his way to the crease and scored at the 6:58 mark. Russo’s second goal of the game gave Southern a 6-2 lead but Laverty answered three minutes later with his second of the game to make it 6-3. Comfort then found open space and ripped a rocket from the left side of the box with 1:20 left for a 7-3 Rams lead.

McWhorter scored a man-up goal 23 seconds into the fourth quarter and Johnson scored his second of the game at 6:21 to give Southern a commanding 9-3 lead. Jackson’s Joe Iacobone closed the scoring with a great individual effort at the 2:35 mark.

The last seven days presented a major crossroad for Southern’s season and the Rams came out the other side with a 3-1 record in four pivotal games. It started with a thrilling 6-5 overtime win over Rumson but the following day the Rams fell to Freehold Township, 6-5 in overtime. Brick Memorial had Southern on the topes before the Rams rallied to win in the fourth quarter, and that offensive momentum carried over into the first quarter of Monday’s win over Jackson.

“We’re very young offensively in terms of what we’re expecting kids to do and it’s been an up and down year,” Pampalone said. “We shot the ball a ton and had a lot of good possessions against Brick Memorial, we just couldn’t find the back of the net until the fourth quarter. We were hoping maybe something started clicking and we were able to come out and play very well in the first quarter today with five goals, which I think is the most we’ve had in a quarter all year. Hopefully this is the turning point for us.”

The past week for Southern also illustrated the biggest trend in the Shore this season outside of No. 1 Manasquan and No. 2 CBA.

“There’s a ton of parity in the Shore this year, it seems like everybody got hit really hard with graduation,” Pampalone said. “From No. 3 through, really whoever qualifies for the Shore Conference Tournament, anyone can make a run to the final four. Manasquan and CBA are definitely the class of the Shore Conference right now, but everybody else, if you don’t come to play you’re in jeopardy of losing.”

 

Box Score

Southern 9, Jackson Memorial 4

Southern (6-1, 3-0) 5 0 2 2 – 9

Jackson (5-1, 3-1)    1 1 1 1 – 4

GOALS – S: Ryan Comfort 3, Aniello Russo 2, Cade Johnson 2, Ryan McWhorter, Nick Fontana; JM: Sean Laverty, Matt Perillo, Joe Iacobone.

ASSISTS – S: Ryan McWhorter 2; JM: Santo Porazzo.

SAVES – S: Luke Maul 3, Robert Gunnell 1; JM: Yael Bonilla 5

SHOTS: Southern, 26-12.

 

Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at bob.badders@townsquaremedia.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.

 

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