Welcome to The Jungle: No. 6 Jackson blanks Manasquan with epic defensive performance
JACKSON TOWNSHIP – Statistics can be misleading, but not in this case. Friday night’s game between Jackson Memorial and Manasquan can be summed up with one outrageous stat.
Jackson offensive lineman Sebi Marc had more receiving yards than Manasquan had total offense.
With a historically dominant defensive performance, Jackson, ranked No. 6 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, swarmed Manasquan from start to finish and came away with a 26-0 victory at John J. Munley Field to move to 2-0.
The Jaguars’ fast and physical defense posted its second straight shutout to start the season by holding Manasquan to 15 yards rushing and minus-1 yard passing for 14 yards from scrimmage. Manasquan had trouble executing punts, which resulted in another minus-16 yards of rushing. When the final buzzer sounded, Jackson had yielded minus-2 yards of offense and allowed just two first downs, one of which came on a penalty.
“Speed and toughness is what we’re going to hang our hat on,” said Jackson Memorial head coach Vin Mistretta. “It’s a different type of defense (than last season) and we had to have guys step up in different positions and prove they could do it, and right now they are.”
Senior defensive back Kai Blair intercepted two passes, senior linebacker Tyron Blackwell had a sack and a fumble recovery and pretty much the entire defensive unit recorded a tackle for loss as the Jags flexed their defensive muscles one week before a showdown with top-ranked Wall.
“We just come every day ready to work at practice,” Blair said. “We knew all their tendencies and that comes at practice. That’s where it all starts. Our confidence grew on every drive and we never let up.”
Manasquan came into Friday night’s game off a 38-15 win over Asbury Park in Week 1 where sophomore quarterback Brett Patten showcased dynamic dual-threat ability. Coupled with the Warriors’ usual power running game it gave the Big Blue the kind of offensive balance it hasn’t had in years. None of that came to fruition against Jackson, however. Patten was the team’s leading rusher with 10 yards on five carries. He completed only one pass, which went for a 1-yard loss. Jackson’s front seven swallowed up Manasquan on basically every play and the secondary held 6-foot-6 wide receiver Jack Collins without a catch.
“We salivate a little when we hear a young quarterback is coming to town,” Mistretta said. “The kid played unbelievably (last week) and was extending plays and they have dynamic athletes all over the place. We had to make him uncomfortable and make the play before he did.”
Offensively, senior running back Will Towns, who is committed to Wake Forest, ran for 111 yards and a touchdown and also caught a 49-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Tai Mann. Junior wide receiver Justin Hirsch caught a 16-yard touchdown pass and Mann threw for 79 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 80 yards. Senior Antonio Bilancione kicked a 25-yard field goal.
Friday night’s win was Jackson’s first-ever over Manasquan in the first meeting between the two programs since 1973. The two schools played from 1968 to 1973 with Manasquan winning all six meetings, according to Jackson Memorial High School historian Jim Colbert.
The scoring started in bizarre fashion late in the second quarter. Mann’s pass to the end zone was intercepted by Manasquan’s Patrick Woodford and returned to the 7-yard line, but during the return, a Manasquan player was called for an illegal block in the back. The foul occurred in the end zone and by rule, the play resulted in a safety awarded to Jackson Memorial.
Jackson’s 2-0 lead grew to 9-0 midway through the second quarter when Towns to quick pass from Mann on 4th-and-5 and turned it into a 49-yard touchdown reception. Towns started strong on the ground with 68 yards on his first six carries but Manasquan was beginning to bottle him up between the tackles. The solution: get him in space.
“It was exactly that,” Mistretta said. “We wanted to find some space for him to keep the chains moving and Will made something special happen.”
The following drive was Manasquan’s best of the night, but it ended in a turnover. Patten was intercepted by Blair on the second play following Towns’ touchdown run by the Warriors got it back on the next play via a fumble recovery. Three plays later, Patten broke off a 20-yard run to midfield, which was Manasquan’s only first down gained from scrimmage. But on 3rd-and-6 from the Jackson 46-yard line, Patten scrambled out of the pocket to his left and threw a jump ball that was intercepted by Blair.
Jackson’s lead grew to 16-0 early in the third quarter when a bad snap on a punt resulted in a 13-yard loss and Jackson taking over at the Manasquan 20-yard line. Towns turned a short pass into a 16-yard gain on 3rd-and-18 and on 4th-and-2 he scored on a 12-yard run.
Later in the third quarter, Towns fumbled at the Manasquan 14-yard line and Woodford recovered for Manasquan. On the next play, however, Woodford was stripped of the ball and Blackwell recovered at the Manasquan 6-yard 10-yard line. Bilancione converted a 25-yard field goal to make it 19-0 with 50 seconds left in the third quarter.
Jackson again had great field position due to another punting mishap by Manasquan and took over at the Warriors’ 28-yard line. On 4th-and-11 from the 16-yard line, Hirsch made a great catch by leaping and snaring the ball away from the Manasquan defensive back for a 16-yard touchdown and 26-0 Jackson Memorial lead.
Next Friday, Jackson will host top-ranked Wall in a marquee game between two Shore Conference powers. The two teams have played some slugfests over the past two seasons with Jackson winning 12-6 in overtime in 2018 and Wall winning 24-0 last season.
“It’s an opportunity,” Mistretta said. “They were No. 1 in the Shore last year and deservingly so, and they bring everybody back. They are the team to beat, there’s no doubt in anybody’s mind. We’re excited for the chance to compete against them and see how we match up."
No. 6 Jackson Memorial 26, Manasquan 0
JM – Safety, penalty on Manasquan in the end zone
JM – Will Towns 49-yard pass from Tai Mann (Antonio Bilancione kick)
JM – Will Towns 12-yard run (Antonio Bilancione kick)
JM – Antonio Bilancione 25-yard field goal
JM – Justin Hirsch 16-yard pass from Tai Mann (Antonio Bilancione kick)
RUSHING – M: Brett Patten 5-10, Jhamier Howard 2-3, Cole Kozlowski 1-2, Patrick Woodford 9-1, Team 2-(-17); JM: Will Towns 20-111, Tai Mann 6-80, Jabari Lofton 1-11, Michael Collins 1-2, Wally Doman 2-(-6), Team 1-(-5), Devin Foderaro 3-(-7).
PASSING – M: Brett Patten 1-11-2 (-1); JM: Tai Mann 4-8-1 78, Devin Foderaro 3-6-0 24.
RECEIVING – M: Aidan Accisano 1-(-1); JM: Will Towns 2-65, Justin Hirsch 1-16, Jabari Lofton 1-9, Kai Blair 2-8, Sebi March 1-4.
INTERCEPTIONS – M: Patrick Woodford 1-15; JM: Kai Blair 2-23.
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.