JACKSON TWP. - As if the Jackson Memorial boys soccer players had not heard enough about all the players who are not playing on this year's Jaguars squad, there were reminders all around them at Tuesday's home game against Manasquan - on the bench, in the stands and even on the opposing team.

In the end, the Jackson Memorial - the No. 2 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 - once again showed that as good as the players the Jaguars are missing are, the ones on the field are good enough to beat anybody.

Junior Drew Walenty scored his sixth goal of the season with just over two minutes left in the second and final overtime period to give Jackson Memorial a thrilling, 2-1 win over No. 6 Manasquan and run the Jaguars' record to 7-0 to open the 2019 season.

"This was a different feeling today," Walenty said. "Everyone was as hyped as they have been all season for this one. This was the best competition we have played all season."

The win was another example of Jackson Memorial's perseverance and it came against a Manasquan team led by two players who wore the red and black of Jackson Memorial as sophomores two seasons ago. Warriors seniors Drew Greenblatt and goalkeeper Joe Weinstein were starters for Jackson Memorial in 2017 before transferring to Manasquan ahead of last season.

Jackson Memorial senior Chase Olejarz. (Photo by Matt Manley)
Jackson Memorial senior Chase Olejarz. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Both former Jaguars made their presence felt on Tuesday, with Weinstein making a diving save in the first five minutes and Greenblatt heading in an equalizing off a cross from senior Frank Manno in the 58th minute.

"Those guys were very good players when they were here, Joe was a very good keeper for us as a freshman and sophomore, so we knew what we were up against," Jackson Memorial coach Steve Bado said. "Credit to them for coming back here and playing well in a big game and credit to our guys as well. They kept battling."

On top of the two familiar faces on the other team, Jackson Memorial played with injured senior starter Ben Schnaak (hamstring) and New York Red Bulls Academy forward and Notre Dame commit Dan Russo watching from the bench. Russo was set to be one of the top returning players in the Shore Conference before opting to play with the Red Bulls Academy this fall.

Between Russo, Schnaak and graduated senior Joe Schlageter - who was also in attendance on Tuesday - Jackson Memorial was missing 38 goals from last season.

Jackson Memorial marched on without its big names thanks to a group of players making names for themselves during Jackson Memorial's 7-0 start. No player has done so more than Walenty, who has scored in six of his team's seven wins and notched four game-winning goals - including two golden goals.

"I definitely felt like I had to come in and give my best for the team," Walenty said. "Last year, I had a good time playing outside wing but this year I had to step up and take Russo's spot."

On Thursday, he shook loose of Manasquan's back line to run down a pass from sophomore Steven Bado and carry it to the left side of the 18-yard box. Walenty flipped up a left-footed shot that Weinstein deflected, but the shot bounced off the far right post and into the goal for the game-ender in the 98th minute.

"I had a good first touch and I beat that first man," Walenty said, recounting his goal. "I cut inside of him and I saw the open shot. I just tried to get it over the goalie and it went in."

Jackson Memorial grabbed the game's first lead in the 18th minute on a penalty kick by senior Chase Olejarz after senior Tyler Howlett was held inside the 18-yard box on a throw-in.

Manasquan finally got its attack in gear during the final five minutes of the first half and turned it into the game-tying score when Greenblatt celebrated his return to Jackson with his head-ball past Jackson Memorial sophomore goalkeeper Charlie Harrison.

Jackson Memorial kept All-Shore junior forward Tommy Johnson quiet throughout the match thanks to the efforts of Olejarz and returning senior center back Ron Bantang. Johnson scored a goal in each of Manasquan's first three matches before going scoreless in his team's first two games this week.

"Tommy Johnson is one of the best forwards in the Shore so we were definitely concerned about him coming in," Bado said. "I thought Chase and Ronny did a good job on him not letting him get loose."

Manasquan played its second overtime game in 24 hours and has now lost three straight games via golden goal. The first two teams to beat the Warriors in overtime - Ocean and Rumson-Fair Haven - entered their respective games against Manasquan without a win while Jackson Memorial entered without a loss.

"I think fatigue was definitely a factor and we knew going into overtime, we should have the advantage after they just went to overtime (Monday)," Bado said. "We just kept playing Jackson soccer and I think eventually we sucked them into playing our brand of soccer and we were able to capitalize."

On Wednesday, it will be Jackson Memorial that is playing the second of back-to-back games when the Jaguars travel to play Shore Conference Class A South rival Toms River South in a key divisional night game for both sides.

Box Score

Jackson Memorial 2, Manasquan 1 (OT)

Manasquan (2-3)01001
Jackson Mem. (7-0)10012

Goals (Assists): (M) Drew Greenblatt (Frank Manno) 58'; (J) Chase Olejarz (PK) 18', Drew Walenty (Steven Bado) 98'
Shots: Tied, 10-10
Saves: (M) Joe Weinstein 4; (J) Charlie Harrison 6


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