The Great Wall: No. 1 Crimson Knights shut down No. 4 Jackson Memorial
JACKSON TOWNSHIP – After starting the season with two straight blowout wins over two overmatched opponents, top-ranked Wall was ready to sink its teeth into an opponent that also fancies itself as one of the best teams in the Shore Conference.
Challenge accepted. Challenge met.
In a matchup of two of the top five teams in the Shore, Wall, ranked No. 1 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, authored a thorough three-phase effort and shut down No. 4 Jackson Memorial, 22-0, on Saturday evening at Jack Munley Field. Senior running back Casey Larkin ran for 150 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries, senior quarterback Logan Peters threw a touchdown to junior wide receiver Matt Dollive and the Crimson Knights’ defense held Jackson under 75 yards of offense to improve to 3-0.
“It was great to be out here with some real good competition,” said Wall junior linebacker Charlie Sasso, who was once again a playmaking machine in the middle of the Crimson Knights’ defense. “(Jackson) is a team full of ballplayers; big, strong linemen, a lot of good skill players. It was great to be out there against a team like that.”
In a game that featured two of the Shore’s best running backs, Larkin and Jackson senior Will Towns, it was Larkin who stole the show with touchdown runs of 50 and 14 yards and 173 yards from scrimmage on an average of 9.1 yards per touch. Conversely, Wall’s defense put the clamps on Jackson’s running game and held Towns, who is committed to Wake Forest, to just 32 yards on 17 carries. The Jaguars ran for 46 yards total and were limited to 72 yards of offense and six first downs.
“We know Willy is a great player and we have a lot of respect for him,” Sasso said. “We knew we had to come in and rally to the ball. The first guys had to come in and wrap up.”
“Everyone knows who they have; Will Towns is a great player and he doesn’t get brought down by the first guy, so our goal was to get 11 hats to the ball at all times, and if we could do that we could stay on top of him.”
Both Towns and Larkin are returning SSN first-team All-Shore selections, Towns at running back and Larkin at utility because of the multi-phase effect he has on the field as a running back and a standout defensive back. Both are FBS commits, as well, with Larkin pledged to attend Army next year. The game was Wall vs. Jackson, not Towns vs. Larkin, but when two of the best players in New Jersey are on the same field it is obviously a matchup to watch. Larkin was well aware of that.
“Casey had a little chip on his shoulder today because of the guy on the other side of the field,” said Wall head coach Tony Grandinetti. “Will Towns is a great back and he has a great future ahead of him, but as much as I tell guys not to read the articles and don’t listen to the press, Casey hears who everyone thinks is the No. 1 back in the Shore and he took it personal. I know deep down, and he might not say this to you guys, but he came out and wanted to prove who he thought was the best.”
Wall’s defense set the tone early by forcing Jackson to go three-and-out on the game’s first series. Peters delivered a thunderous hit on the wide receiver on a third-and-9 to break up the pass.
Jackson answered by holding Wall without a first down on its first offensive series and Wall did the same again by stopping Jackson on fourth-and-1 from the Crimson Knights’ 39-yard line. From there, Wall marched 61 yards in 10 plays to strike first. The two-man running game of Larkin and Peters moved the ball to the Jackson 38 and Dollive converted a third-and-5 with a sweep. On the next play, Peters delivered a perfect pass to a streaking Dollive, dropping the ball right in the wideout’s hands for a 28-yard touchdown and an early 7-0 lead.
“Any team that scores first sets the momentum for the rest of the game and we fed off that,” Larkin said.
Jackson went three-and-out on the following series but caught a break when the punt return was muffed as senior Wally Doman delivered the hit on the punt returner. The turnover advanced the ball from Jackson’s 13-yard line to the 47-yard line and led to the Jaguars’ best scoring chance of the game. A personal foul penalty against Wall on second down was followed by a facemask penalty on the next play, and suddenly the ball had moved to the Wall 29-yard line. A delay of game penalty against Jackson on third-and-2 pushed the Jags back and, after an incomplete pass, Jackson was faced with a fourth-and-7 from the 20-yard line. Towns appeared to have gained enough yardage for the first down after going around left tackle and turning the corner, but the ball was marked half a yard short and Wall took over at the 15-yard line.
Wall needed just four plays to take advantage and push its lead 14-0. Larkin ran for 23 yards on first down, for 10 yards two plays later, and then on a first down at midfield made a cut in the backfield and raced 50 yards to the end zone to give the Crimson Knights a two-touchdown advantage with 4:16 left in the first half.
“Props to the offensive line because it was green grass all the way,” Larkin said. “They’re awesome, they get it done week after week.”
Jackson moved just across midfield on its next possession but was forced to punt. Wall took a 14-0 lead into halftime.
“We knew we were going to come out flying and scoring that first touchdown really got our confidence up,” Sasso said. “We know that’s a great team – No. 4 in the Shore, No. 25 in the state – so we knew we had to come out hot.”
The teams traded punts to start the second half before Wall took a three-score lead late in the third quarter. Taking over at Jackson’s 44-yard line following a punt, Wall moved to the Jackson 28-yard line after a helmet-to-helmet penalty on the Jaguars. An 11-yard run by Peters made it first-and-goal from the 9-yard line and after a delay of game penalty, Larkin found daylight on the left side and scored on a 14-yard touchdown. The extra point was not attempted when the ball slipped through the holder’s hands, giving Wall a 20-0 lead with 20 seconds left in the third quarter.
Wall scored again on the next series when a tackle for loss by junior linebacker Colin Riley on second down and a sack by junior defensive end Blake Rezk on third down brought up a fourth-and-16 from the 6-yard line. On the punt, sophomore Chris Mozeika knifed through the protection and blocked the punt – his second of the year – and the ball bounced out of the end zone for a safety.
Wall had another shot at points on the next series when it moved to the Jackson 17-yard line, but a 30-yard field goal attempt by Max Oakley was wide despite having plenty of distance.
All that was left for the Crimson Knights to do was to preserve the shutout and ensure they would have some treats in front of them on Monday. Jackson earned just one first down the rest of the way, and when the Jaguars threatened to score late with the ball at the Wall 21-yard line, Wall fittingly ended the game with a strip sack by Rezk and a fumble recovery by Sasso.
“We go for a shutout every week, we truly do,” Sasso said. “(Defensive coordinator Jeremy) Coach Balina has us donuts coming in on Monday for the zero on the scoreboard.”
Given that Wall has outscored its opponents 121-13 and has two shutouts in three games, that tradition may backfire.
“We’ve had a lot of donuts,” Sasso said. “We might be putting on some weight.”
No. 1 Wall 22, No. 4 Jackson Memorial 0
W – Matt Dollive 28-yard pass from Logan Peters (Max Oakley kick
W – Casey Larkin 55-yard run (Max Oakley kick
W – Casey Larkin 14-yard run (run failed)
W – Safety, blocked punt by Chris Mozeika bounces out of the end zone
RUSHING – W: Casey Larkin 18-150, Logan Peters 11-29, Matt Dollive 2-9, Charlie Sasso 2-5, Mike Fumarola 1-(-1); JM: Will Towns 17-32, Devin Foderaro 3-7, Tai Mann, 9-5, Damien Henderson 1-2, Michael Collins 1-0.
PASSING – W: Logan Peters 5-8-0 65; JM: Tai Mann 3-5-0 23, Devin Foderaro 1-4-0 3.
RECEIVING – W: Matt Dollive 2-33, Casey Larkin 1-23, Jaquari Medler 1-8, Jackson Coan 1-2; JM: Kai Blair 3-23, Michael Collins 1-3.
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at email@example.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.