You like a team with a little bit of an edge to it? One that mixes the grit of a hard days work in the grass stains of their pants with the flash of playmakers firing out of their shoes?

Then, be sure to pay attention to Jackson Memorial. The Jaguars are a football buffet, offering a bit of everything and their faithful should enjoy every morsel they serve. A defense that was among the very best in the Shore Conference returns practically intact and the Multiple I offense is under a new guidance at quarterback but he's surrounded by potential big-play makers.

And, can't overlook Collin McCarthy, a 6-7, 240 defensive end with a Division 1 commitment made and the engine of a runaway train destined to derail an offense the catalyst for it.

The Jaguars are ready for big things.

From left to right: Sean Laverty, Brian Zapata, Jake McKown, Lonnie Cebulski and Collin McCarthy of Jackson Memorial.

Player to Watch: Collin McCarthy (Sr. DE 6-6, 240)

If McCarthy stood still in a park, pigeons would make him a permanent landing spot. This dude is chiseled like a granite statue but there’s nothing remotely stationary about his rate of activity on the gridiron. McCarthy finished the ‘18 season at 6-6, 205 pounds but checks in for his senior year at 6-7, 240 and with a commitment to UConn in the back pocket. Strong and imposing off the edge, it’s crazy to think but he is more than capable of exceding the impact he made a year ago when he counted a whopping 43 tackles for loss and a Shore Conference-leading 11 sacks among his 83 stops, earning First Team All-Shore for the production.. 

“He impresses me more and more everyday. UConn got a really good treasure,” said Jackson Memorial head coach Vin Mistretta. “He does everything right. If we blow a gap responsibility, he’s still taking up three gaps. He’s the cornerstone of the defense.”

Player to Watch, Part II: Will Towns (Jr. RB 5-11, 195)

Good luck getting your hands around this elusive gamebreaker. Towns plays with an internal joystick that springs unthinkable moves good enough to shake a defender out of his cleats and a burst of acceleration clearing a hole that consumes daylight. He will be the feature back and an explosive force waiting to be lit.

“Will is going to open some eyes,” Mistretta said. “He’s going to make things easier on our offense, he’s going to score and one guy never brings him down. He’s got so many moves. If he does what we expect him to do, colleges will continue knocking on our door looking for him.” 

Towns and senior Steve Rodriguez give Jackson Memorial one of the top ground attacks in the Shore.

Players Under the Radar: Zack Novak (Sr. WR 6-0, 170)

Catch him if you can. Against single cover, Novak is a flyer capable up putting distance between himself and press coverage. He is a model student in the classroom, which should come as no surprise based on his smart routes, film study and attention to details. 

“He worked his butt off and got stronger in the weight room,” Mistretta noted. “Now, he’s running by people. From 7-on-7s to scrimmages, I haven’t found anyone that can cover him. He runs by people and catches the football.”

Novak will be an integral part to a receiving corps that will utilize senior Jake McKown and juniors Wally Doman and Jabari Lofton.

Area of Strength: Defense

This crew plays with a passion and a wealth of experience. Nine starters return from defense that allowed 10.1 points per game.

Collin McCarthy and senior Sean Laverty (6-3, 235) line up at the defensive ends with junior Jaden Persichilli (6-3, 270) and senior Antonio Farias (5-8, 255) digging in at the tackles. Ball-hawking senior inside linebacker Nic Ford, who finished seventh in Shore Conference with 119 tackles as a junior, teams with senior Brian Zapata (73 tackles) and junior Tyron Blackwell at the second level and senior Christian Pellone (85 tackles) and junior Wally Doman (79 tackles) are back as the safeties. Will Towns and junior Qua-suan Basden will be the cornerbacks. 

“We’re very fortunate to have nine guys with varsity experience coming back,” said Mistretta. “We got guys looks and playoff reps. This unit was really good last year. They come and battle you.” 

Jackson Memorial will be successful if…:

Actions speak louder than words. Mistretta tells his kids all the time that talk is cheap, time wasted when measured against honing steely concentration. This ensemble has all the trimmings to harbor visions of winning a Colonial Division and South Jersey, Group 4 title. Talent resides at virtually every position with ample depth in waiting. Cherishing and capitalizing on possessions while avoiding a rash of turnovers and a pile of trash talk are selling points Mistretta is driving home.  

“We have to get better every single day and stay focused,” Mistretta shared. “We’ve all been to the Promise Land and won championships as coaches. The kids have not, but we have the talent to get there. They just have to stay the course and keep their eyes on the job.”

Key to the ignition

Senior Lonnie Cebulski (5-8, 165) takes over at quarterback to run the Multiple I. Athletic and shrewd, Cebulski has thrived in the pre-season, making smart reads instinctually and supplying leadership in the huddle. He’ll also add some run dimensions from the position. Although the offense may lack the pool of experience that resides on the defensive side, rest assured there are playmakers Cebulski can introduce with a toss downfield, including Jaden Persichilli, a tight end the Jags are pumped about.

Line Dancing

The Jaguars have put together an offensive line that can move detours and cast a shadow doing so. Collin McCarthy (6-7, 240) and Antonio Farias (5-8, 255) will be the tackles working alongside Sean Laverty (6-3, 235) and junior guard Sebastian Marc (6-2, 235) with 6-1, 235-pound junior Drew Trust anchoring the group at center. 

Seeking Revenge

For a decade, Jackson Memorial made it clear where football supremacy resided in town. It routinely toppled neighboring Jackson Liberty, often by lopsided margins. That recurring script got flipped upside down last year, courtesy of the 14-0 shutout the Lions pitched that snapped a 10-game losing skid at the hands of Memorial and landed Liberty the program's first victory in the series. Memorial hasn’t forgotten. Mistretta can insist all he wants about how the most important game is the next one on the schedule, but somewhere, Oct. 11 has been highlighted on a calendar, marking the date Liberty will make the five-minute trek to pay an anxiously-awaited visit. 

AT A GLANCE

COACHING STAFF

HEAD COACH:  Vin Mistretta, (3rd season)

CAREER RECORD: 12-9

ASSISTANT COACHES:

Chris Rash (SL/Special Teams Coordinator)

Mike McCarthy (DL)

Arnell Cozart (LB)

Ken Bradley (LB)

TJ Tkac (DB)

Walt Krystopik (DB)

Keith Anderson (Off. Coordinator)

Eric Rado (WR)

Jeff Brown (OL)

Pat Kilmurray (OL/TE)

Khani Glover (RB)

Brandon Vega (WR)

Nicolle Figaro (Athletic Trainer)

2018 RECORD: 6-4 (5-0 in Constitution Division)

OFFENSE: Multiple I

DEFENSE: 4-3

BIG SHOES TO FILL:  Lonnie Cebulski (Sr. QB)

A first-year starter under center, Cebulski has taken to the Multiple I offense. The Jaguars hope he can command the position with peak operating efficiency.

X-FACTOR: Limiting turnovers

The Jaguars’ offense offers a great deal of talent that can break a big play on any snap. In order to improve on the modest 16.6 points per game it averaged in ‘18, stopping drives with turnovers is deemed a costly transgression and a scoring opportunity squandered.  

IMPACT NEWCOMERS: Jaden Persichelli (Jr. TE/DT)

Jackson Memorial is high on Persichilli. One of the program’s top athletes, his reliable hands as a threat over the middle in the passing game are complemented by how well he gets off blocks to stuff the run up the middle. 

PIVOTAL GAME: Sept. 14 at Mater Dei

A Week 2 encounter with the Seraphs, who bowed to Red Bank Catholic in the Non-Public, Group 3 championship last season, should give Jackson Memorial a pretty good idea where it stacks up with some of the best the Shore Conference has to offer. 

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