Southern Style: Rams cook up dominant win over Jackson Memorial to extend A-South streak
STAFFORD TOWNSHIP -- One by one they have challenged, and one by one they have been turned aside. Over the past 10 seasons, Southern Regional's boys lacrosse team has ruled the Shore Conference's Class A South division with unrelenting force.
The latest challenger was an undefeated team averaging over 15 goals per game, but the end result was no different than those of the previous five dozen teams to take their shot at dethroning the Rams.
Southern scored on its first four shots of the game, lead by 10 goals at halftime, and put the game into running-clock mode early in the third quarter en route to a dominant 21-7 victory over Jackson Memorial on Tuesday afternoon. The Rams, ranked No. 5 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, have now won a staggering 68 straight games against Class A South opponents and moved one step closer to securing their 10th straight division championship.
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Senior midfielder Joey DeYoung, a Hostra signee, led the way with five goals and two assists while senior attackman Hayden Lucas continued his superb season with three goals and two assists. Sophomore Liam Griffin added three goals and one assist while senior Ty Murawski and sophomore Joe Kessler each scored three goals. Junior attackman Konnor Forlai posted two goals and one assist and junior middie Anthony Arch tallied a goal and two assists. Senior Collin Lang scored his first varsity goal and sophomore FOGO Collin Markoski won 23 of 31 at the face-off X. In goal, junior Nick Roesch (3 saves) and sophomore AJ Mattern (4 saves) split halves and combined on another solid outing.
"We knew they were an undefeated team and had confidence coming in," Lucas said. "We just had to shut that down, get a couple goals quick, and get the guys fired up."
"It was big to come out right from the start and take care of business," said Southern head coach John Pampalone. "After last week where I thought we played really well against Shore and Brick, to back that up with this game was really nice,"
The bright spot for Jackson Memorial (6-1, 4-1) was senior midfielder Drew Barocas, who scored three times to reach 100 career goals. Freshman attackman Emanuel Jastrzebski and junior midfielder Elias Craig had a goal and two assists each while freshman Joseph Muzzillo and sophomore David Walter had one goal each. Freshman LSM Elijah Coffman picked up 12 ground balls and junior goalie Russell Cender made 11 saves.
Southern's last division loss was on May 5, 2012, when Jackson Memorial dealt the Rams a 9-5 defeat. That Jackson team reached the Shore Conference Tournament final where it lost to Rumson-Fair Haven in overtime. Since that day nearly 11 years ago, Southern has been perfect in Class A South. At 7-1 overall and 5-0 in the division, Southern needs to take care of business against Toms River South and Central Regional to lock up yet another division crown.
"It's a huge accomplishment," Lucas said of the Rams' division winning streak. "Winning a state championship is the big goal but this is something we talk about and everyone wants to win it. We have that reputation and we want to keep that streak alive. You don't want to be the team that loses it."
"It's been an unbelievable run and something we definitely talk about all the time," Pampalone said. "It's a big thing for our program. We start with Class A South and we build from there."
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The Rams wasted no time jumping on the Jaguars with two goals each by DeYoung and Lucas in the first few minutes of the game. Jackson got two goals back with strikes from Muzzillo and Barocas, but Southern added to its lead on tallies from Murawski, DeYoung, and Arch to forge a 7-2 lead after the first quarter.
The game was blown up in the second quarter when Southern scored six straight goals to open a 13-2 lead. A goal by Jastrzebski briefly plugged the leak for Jackson, but it was a 10-goal lead at halftime for the Rams. The third quarter was more of the same as Southern scored the first five goals of the second half to balloon its advantage to 18-3. The third quarter ended with the Rams ahead, 20-4.
More impressive than the 21-goal outburst was the play of Southern's young defense. Sophomore defensemen Kody Wagner, Anthony Oddo, and Alex Fowler, LSM Cuade Deeley, and short-stick defensive midfielders Xander Murry and Mitch Bivona shut down an offense that boasted two 50-point scorers and was averaging 15 goals per game.
"I thought the Shore win (10-8) was incredibly important, especially for our young defense," Pampalone said. "We have some horses returning on offense but our defense is completely new. I thought coming back and hanging on for that win was really big for our young players."
For a team that graduated over 20 seniors from last season's team that reached the Group 4 state championship game, it was fair to wonder if Southern could regroup immediately and remain one of the Shore's best teams. The Rams have answered that question rather emphatically so far with a 6-0 conference record that includes a victory over Shore Regional. The veterans have stepped up their game and a group of talented underclassmen has begun to realize its potential.
"Last year we lost 20-something players but we knew we had good sophomores who could compete," Lucas said. "We had to build their confidence and now they're going out and doing it." Everyone thought we might not be as good but we expect to be right back there in the postseason playing for a state championship."