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JACKSON TOWNSHIP – There have been worthy challengers and close calls, but for the past eight seasons no team in the Shore Conference’s Class A South division has been able to vanquish Southern Regional.

For 24 minutes on Wednesday, it seemed as though that time could be arriving, but a dominant second half by the Rams ensured their streak lived on.

Sophomore attackman Joey DeYoung scored a career-high five goals, senior attackman Luke Bruther tallied a goal and three assists and the defense put the clamps on over the final two quarters as Southern, ranked No. 5 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, sank five unanswered goals for a 9-4 victory over No. 7 Jackson Memorial.

The victory cleared a major hurdle for Southern in its quest for an eighth straight division title and ran its Class A South winning streak to an astonishing 54 consecutive games.

“A South is the first thing we talk about, the seniors come back from years past and talk about it and it’s something we’re proud of,” said Southern head coach John Pampalone. “We know eventually it will go away but as long as we keep it going we’re going to enjoy every minute of it. It means a lot to our kids, our program, past alumni and for the seniors it’s the talk every year. They don’t want to be the class that ruins it. It’s a lot of pressure and a major goal we have every season and, yes, we’re one step closer today.”

The Rams started with goals by junior midfielder Zach Washco and DeYoung in the first 3:03 of the game to jump out to a 2-0 lead, but they were far from crisp in the offensive end despite having a sizeable shots advantage during the first six minutes of the opening quarter. Jackson eventually was able to settle into the offensive zone and the result was goals by junior midfielder Charlie Harrison, senior midfielder Drew Walenty and senior attackman Matt DeRosa in the final 3:47 of the quarter to give the Jaguars a 3-2 advantage.

Southern responded with an extra-man opportunity goal by DeYoung off a feed from Bruther at 8:11 of the second quarter to tie the game, 3-3. The Rams then went ahead, 4-3, on an almost identical goal at the 3:56 mark. Jackson, however, was able to tie the game at four with 1:11 left in the half when freshman Drew Barocas dodged from X and hit the corner above Southern goalie Tyler Sininsky.

Being tied at halftime against a solid team wasn’t the issue for the Rams’ coaching staff. Their disappointment stemmed from a first half that was mostly out of character.

“We were sloppy in the offensive end. We became a little too one-on-one oriented and stopped sharing the ball,” Pampalone said. “We needed to get back to playing how we wanted to play, moving the ball and getting the matchups we wanted.”

“We just needed to step up and finish, stop the turnovers,” DeYoung said. “Once we settled the ball we started to get the tempo going and it became our game.”

The final two quarters were all Southern. Jake Washco scored off an assist from Bruther at 9:44 of the third quarter and Sininsky scored an unassisted goal 18 seconds later to give the Rams a 6-4 lead. DeYoung added an unassisted goal with 1:38 left in the quarter to push the advantage to 7-4 heading to the final frame. Southern had an 11-1 advantage in shots during the third quarter thanks to a massive possession advantage. And when Jackson did get the ball Southern was quick to force a turnover to end the possession.

“We controlled the pace of play better,” Pampalone said. “If you’re going to run good offense long enough you’re eventually going to get the matchup you like and we were finally able to put the ball in the back of the net.”

“We got laid into a little by the coaches because that’s not our game in the first half,” said junior defenseman Nate Committee. “We have a lot of guys banged up and some guys not in their normal spots but it was great to see us come together and find a way to win.”

Southern slowed the pace in the fourth quarter and tacked on goals by Bruther at 4:26 and DeYoung at 2:15 to clinch the victory.

An unsung hero was junior defenseman Hunter Luyber, who stepped in at face-off X and delivered a yeoman’s effort. Southern is without standout senior FOGO Drew Wasacz, who suffered a broken forearm earlier this season, as well as junior Kurt Falk, who is expected to return from an injury on Saturday. Harrison held a 9-for-16 advantage of face-offs but Luyber was able to make it a 50/50 battle on most draws with the wings coming in for support.

“He was great,” Pampalone said. “We lost our two face-off guys to injuries so it’s been by committee lately. “We knew (Harrison) is a very good face-off guy so we just wanted to make it a 50/50 fight and Hunter did more than that. An outstanding job by him.”

Meanwhile, Southern’s defense held Jackson to only one goal and nine shots over the final three quarters. Committee, junior poles Brock Lefkus and Tyler Smith, Luyber, standout LSM turned short-stick defensive midfielder JT Hille and junior LSM Chris Laureigh worked in concert to stick with Jackson’s shifty playmakers and force turnovers. Tyler Sininsky made a few key stops when shots did find their way on net.

“We really feel like, as always, the defense is the backbone for this program,” Pampalone said. “We’ve had a lot of great defenders and goalies and we feel like we have that again this season. While our offense is still young in terms of games played and years because of the lost season last year we depend heavily on our defense and they stood up again today as they have all year.”

Southern needs to defeat Toms River East on Monday and Brick on Wednesday to officially clinch the division title. Over these past eight seasons, Jackson has mostly been the team Southern has had to overcome to remain on the throne, so when the schedule comes out each season it’s one of the first games they look for.

“It’s always great to beat these guys and coming off that loss on Monday (to No. 3 CBA) we really dialed it in during practice,” Committee said. “They bring their best effort every year and we always take them seriously. No one wants to be the class that loses to these guys and now it’s eight straight.”

 

Box Score

Southern 9, Jackson Memorial 4

 

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Jackson31004
Southern22329

 

GOALS – S: Joey DeYoung 5, Zach Washco, Jake Washco, Ryan Sininsky, Luke Bruther; JM: Charlie Harrison, Drew Walenty, Matt DeRosa, Drew Barocas.

ASSISTS – S: Luke Bruther 3, Ryan Sininsky.

SAVES – S: Tyler Sininsky 5; JM: Chad Szatkowski, 11

SHOTS: Southern, 33-14.

 

 

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