STAFFORD TOWNSHIP – The challengers have varied over the years, but for the better part of the last decade, the team at the top of the Shore Conference’s Class A South division has remained the same.

The latest triumph was one of its most difficult, but once again Southern Regional is the A South champion.

After Jackson Memorial had rallied to tie the score, junior attackman Cade Johnson scored with 1:17 left in regulation to lift the Rams, ranked No. 10 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, to a dramatic 6-5 victory over the Jaguars on Friday morning that clinched at least a tie for the division championship. Southern’s 48th consecutive win against A South teams locked up at least a share of the title for the seventh straight season. The Rams can win the title outright by defeating Brick Memorial in their final division game.

“It all started a while ago, and freshman year when we won it was an amazing feeling,” Johnson said. “For the team to keep grinding and keep winning is still amazing.”

“I’m extremely proud of this group,” said Southern head coach John Pampalone. “When we start the season, we always have huge expectations and also have a huge target on our back. To win seven division titles in a row is something really special.”

Southern led 5-3 at halftime and the score remained that way heading to the fourth quarter. Midway through the final frame, Jackson (9-3, 6-1) summoned a quick surge that tied the game at five and pushed Southern to the brink. Junior midfielder Joe Iacabone intercepted a clearing pass before setting up junior attackman Sean Laverty on the crease for a goal that trimmed Southern’s lead to 5-4 with 6:37 left. Just under a minute later, Laverty dodged to his right and ripped a shot into the back of the net to tie the score.

Just as they’ve done all year, the Rams defense and senior goalie Luke Maul came through with clutch stops to keep the game tied and give Southern’s offense a chance to put them back on top. Maul had a big kick save in the third quarter when Southern was a man down, which, at the time, preserved Southern’s 5-3 lead. With the game tied in the fourth, Maul made a difficult save on the crease when Jackson freshman Matt DeRosa beat a defender and got off a good shot while falling to the ground. On the face-off after Johnson’s go-ahead goal, senior defenseman Ian Maul picked up a ground ball to give Southern possession and enable the Rams to essentially run out the clock.

“Our defense has been amazing all season,” Johnson said. “Between Luke Maul in net and Ian Maul, Noah Wasacz; they’ve all come up huge this season. If (the offense) isn’t having a good game, they always have our back.”

The sequence that ended with Johnson’s go-ahead goal began with Maul making a save at the other end before a dishing a quick clearing pass. The ball ended up in the stick of Johnson in transition and he knew exactly what to do.

“I’ve been in that situation on that wing before and I knew if I just face-dodged my defender and brought it in I could put it topside past the goalie,” Johnson said.

“Cade has stepped into a leadership role as a junior coming off a really good sophomore year,” Pampalone said. “He made the shot when he needed to. He’s not scared to take the big shot and it worked out for us today.”

Senior midfielder Ajani Steverson gave Southern (8-2, 6-0) an early 1-0 lead before DeRosa answered to tie the score at one. With 2:28 left it the first quarter, Johnson scored an unassisted goal to give the Rams a 2-1 lead entering the second quarter.

Laverty tied the score at two in the opening minutes of the second quarter, but Southern responded just over a minute later when attackman Nick Stankus intercepted a defensive-zone pass and set up Jake Hughes on the crease. Freshman midfielder Ryan Sininsky then scored from long range to stretch the lead to 4-2 with 8:28 left in the half.

Jackson clawed back within one goal when Porazzo rolled back to his left from just above the crease and scored at the 6:06 mark, but Southern answered yet again when Steverson picked up a ground ball about 10 yards from the goal and whipped a shot into the back of the net for a 5-3 lead.

Jackson Memorial is the last Class A South team to defeat Southern, having done so during the 2012 season. The Jaguars nearly did it again, but a Rams group well-versed in winning found a way to claim another division title.

“Way back when, we worked hard and set an expectation to win every single game, and that’s the one piece that has carried over from every group,” Pampalone said. “This group has the resolve to make the last play that matters, and today they did.”

 

Box Score

Southern 6, Jackson Memorial 5 

  1 2 3 4 F
Jackson (9-3, 6-1) 1 2 0 2 5
Southern (8-2, 6-0) 2 3 0 1 6


GOALS – JM:
Sean Laverty 3, Santo Porazzo, Matt DeRosa; S: Cade Johnson 2, Ajani Steverson 2, Ryan Sininsky, Jake Hughes.

ASSISTS – JM: Sean Laverty, Joe Iacabone; S: Nick Stankus.

SAVES – JM: Chad Szatkowski 13; S: Luke Maul 12.

SHOTS: Jackson Memorial, 27-18.

 

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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