By Wayne Witkowski
Mike Schoener was one in a group of injured players whose absence hurt Jackson Memorial High School’s boys’ soccer team in the early going.
Half of the starting lineup of field players has been out of action for a while but most have returned, as the Jaguars refuel their bid to return to postseason play.
Schoener, a 25-goal scorer last season, had the hat trick and Dan Russo scored the other two goals in the Jaguars’ Shore Conference A South Division victory over Brick Township High School, 5-0, Sept. 22 — its second of two shutout victories while its lineup returns to full strength.
Christian Fryc, a midfielder who has been moved to defense this season, Ben Patti and Andrew Jenkins fired in goals when the Jaguars took a 2-0 halftime lead and beat Toms River High School East, 3-0, in an earlier A South game Sept. 20.
Patti and Logan Lewis are returning from leg injuries, while Drew Greenblatt ends a two-week absence from an injury. Its a similar scenario to two seasons ago when a rash of injuries took a toll.
Their efforts have helped Jackson Memorial improve its record to 4-3 coming into this week’s action and rekindles hopes for Shore Conference and state tournament berths. Only once in longtime coach Steve Bado’s tenure did Jackson Memorial fall short of qualifying for a tournament (2008).
“If ever there is a time to get healthy, this is it,” Bado said. “As long as we stay healthy, I feel really good about our chances.”
Winning 50/50 balls and getting its game quickly into transition to the offensive third of the field are priorities for Jackson Memorial to stay in the hunt for tournament berths, according to Bado.
“When we’re healthy, we have a 12-4 scoring edge. When we weren’t, we were outscored, [6-2],” said Bado, whose team had lost three in a row to Toms River High School North, 2-0, Southern Regional High School, 1-0, and Toms River High School South, 3-2, before its latest shutout victories.
Bado sees a positive side, however, as he has had to turn to some younger players to fill in for those sidelined, and they have performed capably.
“Now they’ll be ready to give a solid 20 to 30 minutes, and that will help us out a lot,” Bado said.
This week, the Jaguars were on the road against Central Regional High School Sept. 26 and Brick Memorial High School Sept. 28. They visit Toms River South Oct. 1 at 6 p.m.