Central Jersey Group 4 Championship Preview: Jackson Memorial vs. Hammonton
CENTRAL JERSEY GROUP 4 CHAMPIONSHIP
WHO: 2-Jackson Memorial (8-2) at 1-Hammonton (9-2).
WHEN: Friday, Nov. 22, 7 p.m.
WHERE: Hammonton High School, 566 Old Forks Rd, Hammonton, NJ
JACKSON’S ROAD TO THE FINAL: Defeated Moorestown, 20-0, in the quarterfinals; defeated Toms River East, 27-21, in the semifinals.
HAMMONTON’S ROAD TO THE FINAL: Defeated Brick, 35-0, in the quarterfinals; defeated Middletown South, 32-29, in the semifinals.
JACKSON’S BEST WIN: 22-14 over Central Jersey Group 3 finalist Rumson-Fair Haven.
HAMMONTON’S BEST WIN: 14-0 over Central Jersey Group 5 finalist Kingsway.
PLAYOFF HISTORY: Both teams have a long and illustrious record book, although Jackson’s championship success is much more recent. All five of Jackson’s state sectional titles have come since 2000. The Jaguars have made 17 playoff appearances in program history with a 23-12 record and a 5-1 mark in championship games. The Jaguars captured consecutive CJ-4 titles in 2014 and 2015…Hammonton has made the playoffs 35 times since the NJSIAA tournament began in 1974. The Blue Devils have reached a sectional final in nearly half those appearances – 16 – while winning five championships and posting a 34-30 record. Hammonton’s last state championship came in 2009 when it went 11-1 and secured the South Jersey Group 3 crown.
JACKSON STAT LEADERS
-Will Towns, Jr., RB: 232 carries for 1,290 yards and 12 TDs; 10 rec. for 105 yard and 2 TDs.
-Collin McCarthy, Sr., DE: 71 tackles, 18 sacks, 43 tackles for loss.
-Lonnie Cebulski, Sr., QB: 735 yards passing, 7 TDs, 4 INTs; 425 yards rushing, 4 TDs.
-Zack Novak, Sr., WR: 16 rec. for 316 yards and 4 TDs.
-Jake McKown, Sr., WR: 20 rec. for 261 yards and 1 TD.
-Brian Zapata, Sr., LB: 90 tackles, 9 sacks, 20 TFL
-Nic Ford, Sr., LB: 94 tackles, 10 TFL.
-Sean Laverty, Sr., DE: 37 tackles, 9 sacks, 14 TFL.
-Tyron Blackwell, Jr., LB: 42 tackles, 8 sacks, 17 TFL.
-Wally Doman IV, Jr., DB: 82 tackles, 1 INT, 8 pass breakups.
HAMMONTON STAT LEADERS
-Jaiden Abrams, Jr., RB: 225 carries for 1,647 yards and 18 TDs.
-Caleb Nartey, Sr., RB: 90 carries for 537 yards and 6 TDs; 10 rec. for 219 yards and 4 TDs.
-Ryan Barts, Sr., QB: 41-for-63, 672 yards, 9 TDs, 2 INTs; 55 carries for 508 yards and 8 TDs.
-Kyle Vandever, Jr., WR: 10 rec. for 135 yards and 2 TDs.
-Dalton Chaney, Sr., WR: 6 rec. for 172 yards and 3 TDs.
Two programs with a rich history will meet to decide the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 4 championship on Friday night with each looking to bring home the sixth state sectional title for their respective schools.
Both visiting Jackson Memorial and host Hammonton enter the championship game riding long winning streaks. The Jaguars, fresh off a thrilling 27-21 victory over Toms River East, have won seventh straight games after a 1-2 start. Hammonton also started the season with a 1-2 but has won eight straight games, including dispatching Brick and Middletown South in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Whichever team emerges to hoist the trophy on Friday night will have to take down an opponent that has not lost since September.
Hammonton’s offense starts and ends with a physical, multi-faceted rushing attack in its Wing-T scheme and is led by star junior running back Jaiden Abrams. After rushing for 1,611 yards as a sophomore, Abrams has turned in another huge season with 1,647 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns on an average of 7.3 yards per carry. Versatile senior running back Caleb Nartey has added 537 yards and six touchdowns plus a team-high 10 catches for 219 yards and four touchdowns. Senior quarterback Ryan Barts engineers the offense and has rushed for 508 yards and eight touchdowns with a 9.2 average per carry. He’s also been efficient through the air by completing 65 percent of his passes for 672 yards with 9 touchdowns and just two interceptions. Hammonton averages 41 rushing attempts and 275 yards on the ground per game.
The Blue Devils’ running game will test Jackson Memorial’s front seven like no team it has faced all season, but if the Jaguars can play up to their potential they have the goods to keep Hammonton in check. Senior defensive end Collin McCarthy has been a one-man wrecking crew since he burst onto the scene as a sophomore and the 6-foot-7, 250-pounder has turned in a dominant senior season. His uncanny ability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage has resulted in 18 sacks and 43 tackles for loss and put him right at the top of the list for conference Defensive Player of the Year honors. His teammate on the other end of the line is no picnic to line up against, either. Senior Sean Laverty has been disruptive in his own right with nine sacks and 14 tackles for loss. Defensive tackles Antonio Farias and Jaden Persichilli round out a formidable front four.
The Jaguars linebacking corps features seniors Nick Ford (94 tackles, 10 TFL) and Brian Zapata (90 tackles, 9 sacks, 20 TFL) along with junior Tyronn Blackwell (42 tackles, 8 sacks, 17 TFL). Senior Hunter Smith has also seen significant time at linebacker of late and played a key role in Jackson’s win over Rumson-Fair Haven.
Jackson’s defense has allowed 18 points per game and hasn’t been a shutdown unit, but the Jaguars have been able to make the big plays in the most important moments, something they’ll look to do again versus Hammonton.
Jackson’s run-first, multiple-I offense has averaged 20 points per game through 10 contests and is led by junior running back Will Towns. The FBS recruit has rushed for 1,290 yards and 12 touchdowns and added two receiving touchdowns this season. Ford is the fullback and receives a handful of carries per game, but his main job is to team with Jackson’s offensive line and open holes for Towns.
Towns has six 100-yard games this season, including two 200-yard games. Teams began bringing more defenders close to the line of scrimmage to stop Towns, daring senior quarterback Lonnie Cebulski to beat them. Cebulski struggled during the first half of the season but has come alive down the stretch to play his best football. He ran for 130 yards and a touchdown on just five carries in a big midseason win over St. John Vianney. During Jackson’s win over Rumson he turned in a career-best passing performance with 123 yards and three touchdowns. In a 20-0 win over Moorestown in the first round of the playoffs, Cebulski was an efficient 8 of 10 for 76 yards and a touchdown. Then, in Jackson’s 27-21 comeback win over Toms River East in the semifinals, Cebulski led the rally by rushing for 114 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning score with 42 seconds left, while also throwing for 88 yards and a touchdown.
The lion’s share of the passing targets go to senior speedsters Jake McKown and Zack Novak. McKown leads the team in catches with 20 receptions for 261 yards and one touchdown while Novak leads in yards with 16 catches for 316 yards and four touchdowns.
Jackson also boasts a sizeable and physical offensive line with McCarthy (6-7, 240) at left tackle, Laverty (6-3, 230) at left guard, Farias (5-8, 255) at center, junior Sebastian Marc (6-2, 240) at right guard, junior Drew Trust (6-0, 235) at right tackle and Persichilli (6-3, 280) at tight end.
Hammonton’s defense allows an average of 15.5 points per game and has three shutouts in its last six games.
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