Jackson Memorial Blasts Brick 44-0 to Reach its First State Final Since 2005
BRICK - For seven straight weeks Jackson Memorial boiled, waiting for a chance to avenge its only loss of the season from an overtime setback to Brick.
Listen to the full game broadcast at the end of this report
In the Jersey Mike's Game of the Week on Friday night at Keller Memorial Field, the third-seeded Jaguars unleashed that pent-up adrenaline by blasting the second-seeded Green Dragons, 44-0, with a dominant performance on offense, defense and special teams, to advance to their first NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV final since going undefeated in 2005. A 30-24 overtime loss to Brick (9-2) in Week Four seemed like a distant memory as the Jaguars (10-1) outgained the defending Central Jersey Group IV champs 362-131, forced five turnovers, and shut out an offense that entered averaging 38.6 points per game.
"The whole entire month-and-a-half we waited,'' said sophomore running back/safety Mike Gawlik. "We were so happy when we found out we were going to play them again."
Jackson will now face top-seeded Middletown South in the championship game on the weekend of Dec. 5-7 at a neutral site in search of its fourth state title in program history. The first order of business was showing that the Jaguars, who are ranked No. 1 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, were the better team after that initial loss to Brick.
"Right after we lost, we wanted revenge,'' said junior wide receiver/defensive back Kyle Johnson. "We wanted revenge since Week Four, and we got it."
Gawlik ran for 101 yards and three touchdowns and senior quarterback/defensive back Joe DeMaio had an outstanding all-around game in going 7-for-10 for 142 yards and a touchdown passing while also registering an interception and three pass break-ups on defense.
"I think we're the best team in the Shore, and we can score on anybody,'' DeMaio said. "We're sky-high right now."
The Jaguars caught an early break and never looked back in zooming to a 31-0 lead at halftime that Brick was unable to recover from. Jackson went three-and-out to start the game, but got new life when a roughing-the-punter penalty extended the drive, one of 13 penalties for 128 yards in the game for Brick. The Jaguars seized that immediate momentum and polished off a 10-play, 65-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown run by junior tailback Vinny Lee for a 7-0 lead with 6:56 left in the first quarter that was set up by a 44-yard pass from DeMaio to Johnson.
"We executed everything perfectly from there and didn't let up,'' Gawlik said.
On the ensuing kickoff, senior Nick Shimonovich recovered a Brick fumble to put the Jaguars right back in business at the Green Dragons' 26-yard line. Four plays later, Gawlik punched it in from four yards out after a 20-yard run by DeMaio to make it 14-0 with 5:26 left in the first quarter.
Brick looked like it was putting together its first scoring drive on its next possession, but DeMaio dove in front of a short pass for the first of three Jackson Memorial interceptions against Brick senior standout Carmen Sclafani on the night. Sclafani entered the night with a combined 2,782 yards and 34 touchdowns between rushing and passing. He had only thrown three interceptions all season, yet Jackson held him to 54 total yards and nearly had as many interceptions (3) as he had completions (4).
"All week in practice our goal was to stop Sclafani, and that's what we did tonight,'' said Jackson senior wide receiver/safety Matt Castronuova. "We got pressure on him all night, and they didn't know what to do."
"We watched film every day before practice for an hour and were just really prepared,'' Johnson said.
DeMaio's interception set up a nine-play, 58-yard drive that culminated with a 7-yard touchdown run by Gawlik that pushed the lead to 21-0 with 10:43 left in the second quarter. Brick came back and drove to Jackson's 36-yard line on its next possession, but Gawlik, Castronuova, senior defensive end Brody Graham and senior linebacker Zach Tetro ganged up to stuff Brick's Ray Fattaruso for a two-yard loss on fourth-and-1 to kill the drive.
After the teams traded three-and-outs, the Jaguars ballooned the lead to 28-0 when DeMaio unloaded a 53-yard bomb down the sideline to Castronuova with 1:13 left in the half. With Sclafani getting the lion's share of the attention between the two quarterbacks coming into the game, DeMaio was eager to remind everyone that Jackson has a pretty talented signal-caller, too.
"I know I get overlooked, but I'm a team player,'' DeMaio said. "I don't care about all those articles about one guy. I don't care if I go 0-for-11 for no yards. I just want to win."
"I'll take him any day of the week,'' Castronuova said. "He can run, he can pass, he's smart with the ball. He's the perfect quarterback for us."
The speedy Castronuova sat out the first meeting with Brick due to NJSIAA rule after transferring from Jackson Liberty, so he was eager to make an impact on Friday night.
"I was pumped,'' Castronuova said. "Sitting on the sideline in Week Four was a tough one, seeing that close game, wishing I could do something for the team, and tonight we just clicked. (On the touchdown pass), we just drew it up and ran right by them. Our athletes are better than their athletes, so let's go."
The Jaguars got the ball back with under a minute to go thanks to an interception by Johnson and put three more points on the board when junior kicker Jared Calhoun boomed a career-long 40-yard field goal through the frigid air with about 10 yards to spare as time expired for a 31-0 lead at the half.
Brick then came undone in the second half, getting flagged for three of its seven personal fouls in the game and having Fattaruso ejected.
"At halftime we went up 31-0 and they came out and they were just flat,'' DeMaio said. "I think they knew it was over. It got ugly at the end."
Jackson Memorial never took its foot off Brick's throat, dominating the second half in holding the Green Dragons to 52 total yards after the break, 46 of which came on a run by Fattaruso to the 10-yard line on Brick's second possession of the third quarter. Gawlik then preserved the shutout with a leaping interception at the one-yard line. Brick only ran nine plays from scrimmage in the entire second half.
Gawlik added an 18-yard touchdown run that capped an 11-play, 99-yard drive, and back-up running back Connor Testa then put the cherry on top of the win with a 35-yard touchdown run as time expired in the game for the final margin.
Lee and Gawlik each went over 1,000 yards rushing for the season in the victory, giving Jackson Memorial a pair of 1,000-yard backs in the same year for the first time in school history. It was the latest highlight in a season full of them, including a win over Red Bank Catholic, which stunned perennial state power St. Joseph's-Montvale 44-14 to reach the Non-Public Group III final on Friday night.
"We're on a high right now,'' Castronuova said. "We're No. 1 in the Shore, and we're rolling."
Jackson Memorial 44, Brick 0
. J B
First downs 21 6
Rushes-yards 50-220 14-104
Passing 7-10-0 4-13-3
Passing yards 142 30
Penalties 3-40 13-128
Fumbles-lost 2-0 2-2
Jackson Mem. (10-1) 14 17 7 6 - 44
Brick (9-2) 0 0 0 0 - 0
Lee 2-yard run (Calhoun kick).
Gawlik 4-yard run (Calhoun kick).
Gawlik 7-yard run (Calhoun kick).
Castronuova 53-yard pass from DeMaio (Calhoun kick).
Calhoun 40-yard field goal.
Gawlik 18-yard run (Calhoun kick).
Testa 35-yard run (kick not attempted).
Rushing - J: DeMaio 9-20, Gawlik 18-101, Castronuova 1-0, Lee 16-52, Testa 6-47. B: Sclafani 7-24, Fattaruso 6-74, Obenauer 1-6.
Passing - J: DeMaio 7-10-0 142. B: Sclafani 4-13-3 30.
Receiving - J: Castronuova 3-70, Johnson 2-55, Gawlik 2-17. B: Johnson 1-17, Bingelis 1-1, Taylor 2-12.
Interceptions - J: DeMaio 1-0, Johnson 1-1, Gawlik 1-0.
Click the PLAY button to hear the segment. RIGHT CLICK the DOWNLOAD link to download a free MP3 of the segment.