Jackson Memorial dominates the trenches to beat Lacey and clinch share of division title
LACEY – If you were looking for a representative picture of Jackson Memorial’s philosophies executed to near-perfection, Saturday’s game against Lacey would be a good place to start.
The Jaguars dominated the trenches on both sides of the ball, forced three turnovers and ran all over Lacey in a 41-14 Shore Conference Constitution Division victory that clinched at least a share of the division title.
Senior running back Leo Shimonovich ran for a game-high 102 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries, sophomore running back Will Towns ran for 60 yards and two touchdowns and senior defensive back Tyler Brito returned an interception 102 yards for a touchdown. Jackson led 28-0 at halftime and 35-0 early in the third quarter before Lacey found the end zone twice in the second half.
Jackson (4-0, 4-0) rumbled for 254 yards rushing, 207 of which came in the first half, and held Lacey to just 13 yards on the ground. In addition to Brito’s pick-six, junior safety Christian Pellone had an interception and senior linebacker Joe Maffei recovered a fumble, both of which led to Jackson touchdowns.
“This was literally the perfect win,” Maffei said. “It was Jackson football: we punch you in the mouth and beat you up.”
Jackson needs only a win over Marlboro (1-3) next week to clinch the outright division championship, which would be its first since winning the Class A South crown in 2013.
Senior quarterback John Ghigna ran for 18 yards on the first play from scrimmage and Shimonovich carried for 19 yards on the next play as Jackson set the tone early. Shimonovich scored on a 12-yard touchdown run on fourth and four to cap a seven-play, 55-yard scoring drive, and it was wash, rinse, repeat for the rest of the first half.
Lacey went three-and-out on its first possession and Jackson marched 80 yards in 12 plays to go up 14-0. Ghigna hit Stephen Vigliarolo for a 40-yard gain to move the ball into Lacey territory and then connected with Chris Richardson to convert a fourth and three. Towns polished off the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run on third and eight.
Jackson got the ball right back with a surprise onside kick but Lacey came up with a stop when Eric Green deflected a pass to the end zone and Chris Locha made a diving interception on the final play of the first quarter.
The turnover only halted the Jaguars temporarily, however. Jackson got the ball back quickly when Pellone intercepted Dylan Gudzak and returned it 15 yards to the Lacey 12-yard line. Two plays later, Towns was in the end zone on a 4-yard touchdown run to make it 21-0 with 10:29 remaining in the half.
Lacey finally gained a first down when Gudzak hit Donovan Bacchetta for 34 yards down to the Jackson 36-yard line, but the drive stalled with three straight incomplete passes. Jackson took over at its own 32-yard line and used nine plays to march 68 yards and get back into the end zone on Shimonovich’s 8-yard touchdown run, taking a 28-0 lead into the half.
“It all starts in practice,” Maffei said. “We had a great week of practice and this is what comes out of it.”
“Even if we’re not breaking off chunk runs, there’s no panic, we’re going to stick to the blueprint,” said Jackson Memorial head coach Vin Mistretta. “We’ve been doing the same thing for 20-25 years. We’re not going to surprise you with any kind of crazy offense. There’s no gimmicks. We are what we are and you either stop it or you don’t.”
Lacey fumbled on the first play of the second half and Maffei recovered the loose ball to give Jackson possession at the Lacey 32-yard line. Junior fullback Michael Fiore ran for 15 yards on first down and Ghigna later converted a fourth and four with a six-yard pass to Jake McKown, setting up Shimonovich for a 1-yard touchdown run and a 35-0 lead.
Lacey was able to get on the board on the next possession by going to a no-huddle passing attack. Gudzak hit Bobby Evans for 25 yards and a facemask penalty moved the ball to the Jackson 25-yard line. On the next play, Gudzak found Evans again for a 25-yard touchdown to end the shutout and make it 35-7.
Lacey was on the move again early in the fourth quarter and had the ball first and goal at the Jackson 8-yard line, but on third down Brito intercepted Gudzak’s pass and returned it 102 yards for a touchdown, giving the Jaguars a 41-7 lead.
“The coaches look like geniuses when we focus on the turnover circuit on Tuesday and all the sudden we have three turnovers,” Mistretta joked. “The kids want it and they challenge each other for those big plays.”
Lacey answered on the ensuing drive as Gudzak tossed an 11-yard touchdown pass to Bacchetta to make it 41-14 with 5:24 left, but by that time it was too little, too late. Even with the backups in, Jackson was able to pound the ball between the tackles to run out the clock and improve to 4-0 for the first time since 2011.
Now the Jaguars will try to close their division schedule against Marlboro and check off the first of their season goals.
“We’d like an outright division title but either way this team is going to go down in Jackson history,” Mistretta said. “The number goes up on the board with all our other division championships. The 2018 Jackson Jaguars are going to be remembered for something. Do we have bigger goals? 100 percent, but the kids accomplished their first goal that’s in front of them. Now we have to keep grinding.”
“We’re pretty confident but we’re trying to stay humble,” Maffei said. “We don’t want to lose everything we’ve been working for.”
No. 10 Jackson Memorial 41, Lacey 14
Jackson Memorial (4-0, 4-0) 14 14 7 6 – 41
Lacey (3-2, 2-2) 0 0 7 7 – 14
JM – Leo Shimonovich 12-yard run (Justin Burkert kick)
JM – Will Towns 10-yard run (Justin Burkert kick)
JM – Will Towns 4-yard run (Justin Burkert kick)
JM – Leo Shimonovich 8-yard run (Justin Burkert kick)
JM – Leo Shimonovich 1-yard run (Justin Burkert kick)
L – Bobby Evans 25-yard pass from Dylan Gudzak (Kevin Hayes kick)
JM – Tyler Brito 102-yard interception return (kick failed)
L – Donovan Bacchetta 11-yard pass from Dylan Gudzak (Kevin Hayes kick)
RUSHING – JM: Leo Shimonovich 13-102, Will Towns 12-60, John Ghigna 6-55, Jared Pittman 6-14, Michael Fiore 5-21, Connor Taylor 1-2; L: Quint Kearns 12-21, Chase Granit 1-2, Bobby Evans 1-1, Justin Gorski 1-(-2), Dylan Gudzak 2-(-4), Team 1-(-5).
PASSING – JM: John Ghigna 4-8-1 59; L: Dylan Gudzak 14-27-2 208.
RECEIVING – JM: Stephen Vigliarolo 1-40, Chris Richardson 2-13, Jake McKown 1-6; L: Donovan Bacchetta 5-75, Bobby Evans 4-64, Mike Kudlacik 1-31, Quint Kearns 1-19, Cole Gudzak 1-10, Matt Kuligoski 2-9.
INTERCEPTIONS – JM: Tyler Brito 1-102, Christian Pellone 1-15; L: Chris Locha 1-0.
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.