BRICK TOWNSHIP – At times, it was ugly, but when the moment arrived for Jackson Memorial to dig in, the Jaguars found a way to pull out a season-opening road victory.

Trailing by one point with under seven minutes to play, Jackson used a clutch defensive series to produce excellent field position for its offense, which capitalized with a go-ahead score to cement a 24-17 Shore Conference nondivisional win over Brick Memorial on Saturday afternoon at DiFabio Field.

Taking over at Brick Memorial’s 34-yard line with 4:47 left in the game, the Jaguars methodically marched toward the end zone across eight plays before senior fullback Nic Ford plunged in from a yard out with 1:16 on the clock. Quarterback Lonnie Cebulski then found junior running back Will Towns for the 2-point conversion and a seven-point advantage. The extra cushion wasn’t needed, however, as the Jaguars’ defense squashed Brick Memorial’s last-ditch efforts and fittingly ended the game with a combined sack from Collin McCarthy and Antonio Farias, the Jaguars’ eighth of the game.

“We didn’t know what kind of guys we had,” said Jackson Memorial head coach Vin Mistretta. “Do we have guys who can finish the game and face some adversity and overcome it or are we going to break? How are we going to respond? The defense did an awesome job with that three-and-out and the offense with Will Towns being a dude at the end got us down to the goal line and the offensive line took pride and got Nic Ford into the end zone. It was a big response by them.”

“The coaches preach every day that we have to finish and that’s exactly what we had to do,” said senior two-way lineman Sean Laverty. “We were in the red zone for most of the game, we just had to find a way to punch it in.”

Towns led the way for the Jags’ offense with 187 yards rushing and a touchdown on 21 carries. Steven Rodriguez added a 14-yard touchdown run as Jackson churned out 242 yards on the ground. Jake McKown chipped in with a 27-yard field goal and also caught three passes for 47 yards.

Defensively, the Jaguars recorded eight sacks against the Mustangs with junior Jaden Persichilli leading with two and McCarthy coming away with 1.5 sacks. Senior defensive back Christian Pellone added an interception. Jackson held Brick Memorial to a paltry five yards rushing.

Brick Memorial’s offense had a much different look with quarterback Anthony Albanese working out of the shotgun running more of a zone-read scheme as opposed to the Mustangs’ usual flexbone triple-option look. Albanese threw for 210 yards and two touchdowns, both of which went to Mekhi Irving, who had three catches for 103 yards and two scores. Senior Ryan McCombs kicked a 32-yard field goal, which gave Brick Memorial a 17-16 lead with 8:59 left in the game.

“(The defense) wants to be talked about as a dominant unit and today they were not, but they made plays when they needed to and made the big plays,” Mistretta said.

After a scoreless first quarter, Jackson used consecutive sacks to get the ball back at its own 40-yard line, and on first down, Towns broke a 60-yard touchdown run down the visiting sideline to give the Jaguars a 6-0 lead. The extra point was not attempted when the snap/hold exchange failed.

On the next offensive play, Jackson forced Albanese to fumble and linebacker Brian Zapata recovered at the Brick Memorial 35-yard line. The Jags moved across the 20-yard line and converted a fourth-and-two when Ford just barely reached the line to gain on a dive play. On the next play, Rodriguez found room on a 14-yard score to extend Jackson’s lead to 13-0.

Brick Memorial responded with a 10-play, 64-yard drive to cut its deficit to 13-7. Albanese connected with Irving for 24 yards on the first play of the drive to move the ball to the Jackson 40. Ahki Barksdale had a 10-yard run to convert a third-and-10 and Albanese ran for 18 yards on third-and-15 to put the ball at the Jackson 17-yard line. Three plays later, Albanese found Irving on a slant for a 13-yard touchdown.

Jackson was able to add to its lead on the final series of the first half by driving 57 yards in 11 plays over the final 3:15. Towns had a 14-yard run to the Brick Memorial 28-yard line and Rodriguez turned a swing pass into a 25-yard gain down to the 5-yard line. The Mustangs’ defense dug in its heels, however, and pushed Jackson back to the 9-yard line where it settled for McKown’s 27-yard field goal and a 16-7 halftime edge.

Timely plays by Brick Memorial’s defense helped the Mustangs take the lead in the second half. Jackson drove to the Brick Memorial 25-yard line on the opening possession of the third quarter, but on fourth-and-13, Isaiah Neal burst through the line to sack Cebulski and force a turnover on downs. Two plays later, Albanese hit Irving over the middle and Irving did the rest by weaving through the Jackson secondary on his way to a 65-yard touchdown reception. McCombs’ extra point was good and trimmed Jackson’s lead to 16-14.

Late in the third quarter, Brick Memorial’s defense forced a three-and-out deep in Jackson territory to get the ball back at the Jaguars’ 44-yard line. The drive stalled at the 15-yard line, but McCombs’ kick from 32 yards out was true and gave the Mustangs a 17-16 lead with just under nine minutes to play.

Brick Memorial forced Jackson to punt with 6:34 left and had a chance to add to its lead or run out the clock, but the Jaguars did not allow the Mustangs to gain a single yard, stuffing Neal on first down, sacking Albanese on second down and chasing him from the pocket on third down to force an incompletion. The Jags got the ball back just 34 yards from the end zone, and from there all they had to do was lean on their ground game to pull ahead for good.

“It wasn’t pretty and we have plenty to work on, but we got it done,” Mistretta said.

 

Box Score

Jackson MemorialBrick Memorial
First downs1512
Rushes-yards38-24229-5
Passing6-17-010-17-1
Passing yards83210
Fumbles-lost1-01-1
Penalties-yards10-904-30

 

1234F
Jackson Memorial0160824
Brick Memorial077317

 

Scoring summary

JM – Will Towns 60-yard run (run failed)

JM – Steven Rodriguez 14-yard run (Jake McKown kick)

BM – Mekhi Irving 13-yard pass from Anthony Albanese (Ryan McCombs kick)

JM – Jake McKown 27-yard field goal

BM – Mekhi Irving 65-yard pass from Anthony Albanese (Ryan McCombs kick)

BM – Ryan McCombs 32-yard field goal

JM – Nic Ford 1-yard run (Will Towns pass from Lonnie Cebulski)

 

Individual statistics

RUSHING – JM: Will Towns 21-187, Steven Rodriguez 6-31, Lonnie Cebulski 5-14, Nic Ford 6-10; BM: Isaiah Neal 5-7, Ahki Barksdale 4-7, Sean Beck 3-4, Anthony Albanese 17-(-13).

PASSING – JM: Lonnie Cebulski 6-17-0 83; BM: Anthony Albanese 10-16-0 210, Rahmere Hutchinson 0-1-1 0.

RECEIVING – JM: Jake McKown 4-47, Steven Rodriguez 2-36; BM: Mekhi Irving 3-103, Ryan McCombs 2-47, Sal Lepore 1-32, Ahki Barksdale 3-21, Isaiah Neal 1-7.

INTERCEPTIONS – JM: Christian Pellone 1-23.

 

Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at bob.badders@townsquaremedia.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.

 

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