Tetro’s Defensive Touchdown Sends Jackson Past Brick Memorial in A South
BRICK TOWNSHIP — As Glenn Kipila smashed into Tim Santiago in the backfield, away went the football, caroming yard after yard toward Brick Memorial’s end zone.
Jackson Memorial had blown up the play, and if Kipila didn’t get there it would have been Zach Tetro, who instead found the ball at his feet inside the 10-yard line. The senior linebacker was able to scoop it up and plunge forward through an ankle tackle and across the goal line, snapping a fourth-quarter tie and lifting Jackson Memorial, ranked No. 7 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, to a 21-14 victory over No. 8 Brick Memorial in a Shore Conference Class A South match-up.
“It took me a couple seconds - I’m a little slow - but I got to it,” Tetro said. “ And even though I had a guy on my ankles I was just able to get in.
“Defense wins games. If they can’t score they can’t win, it’s as simple as that. And if we have to we’ll make sure someone comes out and makes and play and gets in the end zone.”
“Tetro is the same guy that Joe DeMaio is for the offense,” said Jaguars head coach Walt Krystopik. “He’s the leader, and he really played a great game for us tonight.”
Tetro’s defensive touchdown with 6:35 left in the game snapped a 14-14 tie that had stood since halftime, and it was the fitting exclamation point to cap the Jaguars’ defensive effort. Brick Memorial jumped out to a 14-0 lead after the first quarter, but the Jags shut the Mustangs out the rest of the way while yielding just 83 yards. One week after rushing for 386 yards and compiling 436 total yards out of its flexbone option attack in a win versus Old Bridge, Brick Memorial was held to just 163 total yards and 80 yards rushing.
“We had three fronts so we started out slow testing the waters,” Tetro said. “The first one wasn’t really there and the second one kind of was, but the third one we found a rhythm with and they could’t stop us.”
Even though the Jaguars (5-1, 4-1) needed a score from their defense late in the game, their offense asserted its will for the majority of the game. Senior quarterback Joe DeMaio ran for 108 yards on just eight carries to lead a 316-yard ground attack that had four players run for over 50 yards. Senior wide receiver Matt Castronuova had his second long touchdown in as many weeks when he took a jet sweep 73 yards to the house on the first play of the second quarter, and junior tailback Vinny Lee ran for a 23-yard touchdown on fourth-and-1 late in the second quarter that tied the score at 14, and finished with 58 yards. Sophomore running back Mike Gawlik added 78 yards on 14 carries.
“That’s the great thing about our offense. We have Matt Castronuova, Kyle Jonson, and both Vinny Lee and Gawlik, and we can just run, run, run,” DeMaio said. “And our offensive line, they carry us. We go wherever they go, and they did a great job tonight.”
The evolution of Jackson’s offense continued now that it has been at full capacity for two games since Castronuova became eligible after sitting out 30 days after transferring. The Jaguars featured several different sets and personnel groupings. One play DeMaio was in the shotgun with three wide receivers, the next the Jags had two tight ends, two backs and no receivers.
“We are spreading teams out more,” DeMaio said. “We showed it last week and even more this week, and then we went back to the two-back set. That throws teams off guard. It’s hard to go from defending the spread to defending the power-I.”
Castronuova’s ability to score on one play from anywhere on the field, which he showed in his debut last week, has added another dimension to Jackson’s offense. The threat of the jet sweep and a potential long touchdown - which Castronuova eventually broke - gave DeMaio plenty of running room throughout the game.
“When we hit the jet sweep over and over again guys are going to bite on it,” DeMaio said. “The pull read was there with the guard pulling opening huge holes.”
“It takes a lot of pressure off the other guys,” Krystopik said of having several offensive playmakers that regularly contribute. “Whatever the defense gives us, we can have a guy in position to exploit it.”
Jackson was able to stay one game behind Brick in the A South race in winning a battle of 4-1 teams, but early on it was the Mustangs striking twice to put Jackson in its biggest hole of the season.
Senior Matt Cathey returned the opening kickoff 76 yards to the Jackson Memorial 18-yard line, and two plays later Santiago scored on a 6-yard keeper to give Brick Memorial a 7-0 lead just 45 seconds into the game.
Later in the first quarter, Brick Memorial took over at its own 45-yard line after Alex Clayton’s hit on Aaron Curet forced a fumble recovered by teammate Victor Gomez. Santiago ran for a pair of first downs on third down to set up his 30-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Karl Kumm with 1:12 left in the first quarter. Kumm was one-on-one with Castronuova, who is one of the top safeties in the Shore, but the Mustangs senior used his 6-foot-4 frame to box him out and haul in the score for a 14-0 lead.
The Jaguars would respond quickly, however, and they would do it with their newest weapon. On the first play of the second quarter, Castronuova took a jet sweep to the right, broke a tackle and outraced the Brick Memorial defense for a 73-yard touchdown that trimmed the deficit to 14-7.
Jackson’s defense begin to settle in, and after forcing two straight three-and-outs, gave the ball to its offense just shy of midfield with 4:11 to play in the first half. A seven-yard pass from DeMaio to Curet gave the Jaguars a fourth-and-1 from the Brick Memorial 23-yard line with 1:35 left in the half. They brought in the two-back set and handed it off to Lee, who broke through the sea of players at the line of scrimmage and scampered for a 23-yard touchdown to tie the score at 14.
“These two teams after Brick (Toms River North and Brick Memorial) are big and physical up front and they want to smash you,” Krystopik said. “They’re not playing around, they want to beat you up. For our kids to respond after being down two scores showed a lot of character.”
The score remained tied through a fast-moving third quarter, but it wasn’t for a lack of offense for the Jaguars. On the first possession of the second half the Jaguars drove from their own 20-yard line to Brick Memorial’s 17 in seven plays, but Jared Calhoun couldn’t get off a 34-yard field goal attempt after a bouncing snap and was tackled for a nine-yard loss. Jackson again looked like it was going to take the lead when it drove from its own 19 to the Mustangs’ 8-yard line late in the third, but Kumm’s diving interception of a pass by DeMaio at the three-yard line held the Jaguars out of the end zone.
A 23-yard run followed by a 15-yard run on third down by Santiago moved the ball out to 45-yard line for Brick Memorial, but a critical holding penalty that resulted in a 15-yard loss pushed the ball back to the 29. Two plays later, Santiago faked to the fullback and rolled to his left, looking to pitch the ball outside on third-and-26. But before he could extend his arm he was walloped by Kipila, who had driven his man into the backfield. The ball flew back and bounced near the five-yard line before Tetro picked it up and scored the go-ahead touchdown.
“We have the confidence that our defense can stop anybody,” DeMaio said. “That play was huge. He scored and that was it.”
Brick Memorial had to punt on its next drive, and after a pair of first downs by Gawlik on the ground, including one on fourth-and-two at the Brick Memorial 17 with just over two minutes to play, it seemed Jackson had locked up its fifth victory. Gawlik fumbled on the next play, however, and senior Joe Hans recovered at the six to give Brick Memorial one last chance. Hans made a 23-yard catch to help move the ball out to the 40, but on fourth-and-15 the Mustangs last-ditch-effort hook-and-ladder was stopped a few yards short.
“Toms River North was a big win last week and we knew we couldn’t sleep on Brick Memorial,” DeMaio said. “They’re a great team, and they came out and played hard. It was a great game.”
Jackson could’ve fallen off after its heartbreaking 30-24 overtime loss to Brick, but instead responded with impressive wins over the Mariners and Mustangs. If Brick should slip up in the division, the Jaguars certainly look poised to capitalize.
No. 7 Jackson Memorial 21, No. 8 Brick Memorial 14
|Jackson Memorial||Brick Memorial|
Jackson Memorial (5-1, 4-1) 0 14 0 7 – 21
Brick Memorial (4-2, 3-2) 14 0 0 0 – 14
BM – Tim Santiago 6-yard run (Matt Cuppari kick)
BM – Tim Santiago 30-yard pass to Karl Kumm (Matt Cuppari kick)
JM – Matt Castronuova 73-yard run (Jared Calhoun kick)
JM – Vinny Lee 23-yard run (Jared Calhoun kick)
JM – Zach Tetro 5-yard fumble return (Jared Calhoun kick)
Rushing – JM: Joe DeMaio 8-108, Matt Castronuova 4-80, Mike Gawlik 14-78, Vinny Lee 13-58, Kyle Johnson 2-1, Jared Calhoun 1-(-9); BM: Tim Santiago 22-50, Connor Owen 8-29, Elie Lavarin 3-3, Matt Cathey 1-(-2).
Passing – JM: Joe DeMaio 4-10-1 71; BM: Tim Santiago 6-17-0 83.
Receiving – JM: Kyle Johnson 2-48, Aaron Curet 2-23; BM: Karl Kumm 3-47, Joe Hans 1-23, Peter Walski 1-7, Mike Kraft 1-6.
Interceptions – BM: Karl Kumm 1-0.