Football – Wall Explodes in 4th, Shuts Out Jackson Memorial
JACKSON TWP. - Having watched his team lose to Jackson Memorial in a low-scoring, overtime game last year, Wall football coach Tony Grandinetti new what kind of game to expect his team to play against the Jaguars in the very same setting this season.
With the game scoreless heading into the fourth quarter, Wall had no points but they were showing something that was lacking just enough in last year's loss: poise.
The Crimson Knights turned a defensive nail-biter into a run-away with 24 points in the last 12 minutes to blank Jackson Memorial, 24-0, for a Shore Conference Colonial Division road win.
"I think our poise was the difference," Grandinetti said. "We knew it was going to be a tough, physical game. When we play Jackson Memorial, it's not going to be high-scoring and in a close game where you have to fight for every yard, you have to stay poised and stay focused and I think we have been much better about that so far this year."
The two ranked teams in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 combined for just 13 first downs and 291 yards from scrimmage and No. 8 Jackson Memorial actually out-gained No. 2 Wall, 150-141. Wall, however, delivered several huge fourth-quarter plays while Jackson Memorial could never break through.
"We love being in close games - it motivates us even more," said junior Shane Larkin, whose 26-yard interception return for a touchdown served as the clincher that made the score 17-0. "We have the confidence in our defense. We think we can stop anyone in front of us."
The pendulum swung toward Wall when junior quarterback Logan Peters hit sophomore Blake Rezk on a dig route on the first play of the third quarter that Rezk took 36 yards down to the Jaguars five-yard line. Two plays later, the Crimson Knights broke the seal with a three-yard touchdown run by senior running back Matt DeSarno with 10:22 left to play.
"We called that play earlier in the game and Logan didn't throw it to Blake, but we liked what we saw," Grandinetti said. "I kind of put that one in my back pocket for later for the right moment in the game. Logan knew where to go with the ball and Blake made a great play."
Jackson compounded its troubles on the first play of its next drive, with sophomore Jim Tobin fumbling an exchange with senior quarterback Lonnie Cebulski when Wall sophomore Colin Riley hit him as he took the handoff. Wall junior Grant Puharic recovered and the Crimson Knights took over on Jackson Memorial's 16-yard line.
The Jaguars defense did not give an inch but Wall still turned the fumble into points when Max Oakley drilled a 33-yard field goal to extend the Crimson Knights lead to 10-0.
Jackson Memorial turned the ball over on downs but again got it right back by forcing a Wall three-and-out. The Crimson Knights did pin the Jaguars back at their own 10 thanks to the punt and a five-yard penalty for too many men in the huddle, setting up the dagger.
Cebulski dropped back to pass but Larkins had the play sniffed out. The junior picked off the pass and took it 26 yards for the touchdown and three-score Wall lead, 17-0, with 3:21 left.
"I was manned up in nickel coverage," Larkin said. "The receiver ran an out and I just jumped the route. It was open field from there."
Sophomore Charlie Sasso joined Larkin with an interception on Cebulski's next pass and took it back to the Jackson Memorial 24 yard-line. Three plays later, senior Dale McNally slipped into the clear for a 20-yard touchdown run that capped the scoring.
Wall's defense did not give up a second-half first down until the final drive of the game, when the outcome was already decided. The Crimson Knights forced three turnovers in the second half and four for the game, also recovering a fumble in the first half on junior running back Will Towns' longest run of the game.
"All week, I told the guys how important it was for us to be really good in all three phases of the game: offense, defense and special teams," Grandinetti said. "Obviously, our defense was outstanding tonight. We made a couple plays in special teams with the blocked punt and the field goal. Offensively, it wasn't our biggest game, but we made some key plays when we needed to."
"I think we definitely wore them out," Larkin said. "That's our advantage. We are well-conditioned. We go all three phases, all four quarters."
The Crimson Knights prevailed despite their struggles on offense. Peters completed 5-for-11 passes for 50 yards with an interception by Jaguars senior Jake McKown. Larkin, meanwhile led the rushing attack with 63 yards on 15 carries.
Wall squandered an early chance to score after senior Terry Dean blocked a Jackson Memorial punt to set the Crimson Knights up at the Jaguars 25 yard line in the first quarter. Peters, however, fumbled the first snap of the drive and took a sack and the threat ended when senior Collin McCarthy sacked Peters again on fourth down.
Jackson Memorial, meanwhile, could not take advantage of its scarce opportunities either. The Jaguars were in Wall territory five times Friday night: Towns crossed into Wall territory on the play in which he fumbled in the first half and crossed the 50 on an 18-yard catch that ended the first half; McKown's interception return brought the ball to the Wall 38 yard line; a personal foul on a kickoff return started Jackson Memorial on the Wall 47 just before Sasso's interception; and the Jaguars made it deep into Knights territory on their last drive of the game thanks to their only first down of the game.
The win was a measure of revenge for Wall's returning players, which endured a 12-6, overtime loss at Jackson Memorial last season.
"Coach (Grandinetti) was talking about it all week," Larkin said. "We're on the same field, same jerseys, same type of game and we wanted revenge. They are in our division now too, so that just motivated us even more."
Wall 24, Jackson Memorial 0
|Wall (3-0, 1-0)||0||0||0||24||24|
|Jackson Mem (1-2, 0-2)||0||0||0||0||0|
W - Matt DeSarno 3-yard run (Max Oakley kick)
W - Max Oakley 33-yard field goal
W - Casey Larkin 26-yard interception return (Max Oakley kick)
W - Dale McNally 20-yard run (Max Oakley kick)
Rushing - W: Casey Larkin 15-63, Dale McNally 4-26, Matt DeSarno 3-8, Logan Peters 10-(-6); JM: Will Towns 18-44, Matt DeRosa 3-36, Lonnie Cebulski 5-26, Jake McKown 2-13, Nick Ford 1-3, Jim Tobin 1-(-6)
Passing - W: Logan Peters 5-11-1 50; JM: Lonnie Cebulski 5-19-2 34
Receiving - W: Blake Rezk 1-36, Matt DeSarno 2-7, Dale McNally 1-7, Casey Larkin 1-0; JM: Will Towns 1-18, Jake McKown 2-9, Jim Tobin 1-4, Nick Ford 1-3
Interceptions-Return Yards - W: Charlie Sasso 1-34; Casey Larkin 1-26; JM: Jake McKown 1-27