Jersey Mike’s Football Team of the Week: Jackson Memorial
Every week this fall, Jersey Mike’s and Shore Sports Network will be selecting a Team of the Week based on its performance over the past weekend.
The Jersey Mike’s Team of the Week for Week 8 is Jackson Memorial, which used a resurgent aerial attack and a stout defensive effort to defeat Rumson-Fair Haven, 22-14, and extend its winning streak to five games heading into the NJSIAA state playoffs. Shore Sports Network was at practice on Tuesday to present the Jaguars and head coach Vinny Mistretta with a special game ball and a $500 Jersey Mike’s gift card.
Jackson and Rumson were each coming off bye weeks as they squared off in a game that was going to have postseason seeding implications for both teams. The visiting Bulldogs had a chance to earn a top-two seed in the South, Group 3 section and home-field advantage throughout the sectional playoffs, while the Jaguars were looking at a top-four seed in South, Group 4 and two home playoff games with a win.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Jaguars struck first when senior linebacker Brian Zapata snared an interception and returned it to the Rumson-Fair Haven 7-yard line. The sudden change set up senior quarterback Lonnie Cebulski to throw a 5-yard touchdown pass to senior Zack Novak on third-and-goal. Cebulski lofted a pass toward the back of the end zone and Novak stretched out to make the catch while making sure to keep his feet in bounds.
The lead would be short-lived, however, as Rumson would answer on the next offensive play when junior running back John Volker took a swing pass and turned it into a 74-yard touchdown reception. Jackson did not convert the extra point on its touchdown, so when Rumson’s Michael Piperno knocked through the PAT it gave the Bulldogs a 7-6 lead.
That was the last time Rumson would lead and the only offensive touchdown Jackson would allow the rest of the way.
The Jaguars responded on their next drive when Cebulski connected with senior Jake McKown for a 59-yard touchdown down the home sideline on third down. McKown then kicked the extra point for a 13-7 Jackson lead which held through halftime.
The Jags extended that lead to 16-7 in the third quarter when McKown capped a seven-minute drive with a 22-yard field goal. The lead grew to 22-7 in the fourth quarter when Rob Paneque recovered a fumble on a Rumson punt return to give Jackson a short field. A 34-yard reception by Novak led to Cebulski’s third touchdown strike of the game, a 9-yard pass to Novak, to give the Jaguars a 15-point lead.
Rumson made it a one-score game when Dan Afflitto returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown, but Jackson’s defense put the clamps on the rest of the way to earn a huge victory entering the playoffs.
Cebulski had the best game of his career in completing 8 of 12 passes for 120 yards and three touchdowns. McKown caught four passes for 76 yards and a touchdown and Novak had three catches for 48 yards and two touchdowns. Junior running back Will Towns, who received a scholarship offer from the University of Massachusetts during the week, ran for 70 tough yards on 26 carries against a physical Rumson defense that stacked the box to slow him down. Fullback Nic Ford added 39 yards on eight carries.
Jackson’s defense was outstanding in holding Rumson to 127 yards of offense, including an eye-opening total of minus-1 yard rushing. Volker, one of the best running backs in the Shore, was held to just nine yards on nine carries. Senior linebacker Hunter Smith led the way eight tackles, including three for a loss, plus two pass deflections. Senior defensive ends Collin McCarthy and Sean Laverty and junior defensive tackle Jaden Persichilli each recorded one sack.
The victory over the reigning Central Jersey Group 3 and South/Central Group 3 Bowl Game champion Bulldogs boosted Jackson’s United Power Ranking to give the Jags the No. 2 seed in the Central Jersey Group 4 playoffs. They will open their quest for a state championship on Friday, Nov. 8 against Moorestown (4-5) at John J. Munley Field.
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.