Jackson Memorial football team winning with defense and running game

Scott Jacobs

The Jackson Memorial High School football team is back on track.

After a 1-2 start to the football season, the Jaguars have won three straight games to improve to 4-2 overall. They beat Brick Township High School, 28-14, on the road on Sept. 27, Saint John Vianney High School, 22-14, on Oct. 4 at home and Jackson Liberty High School, 14-7, on Oct. 11 at home.

The Jaguars are now in position to carry their hot streak into the NJSIAA playoffs, which will begin in early November.

Jackson Memorial, with a strong running game, a stout defense and a proven ability to win close games, is built for the postseason, too.

“We try to keep it simple and consistent,” said Jackson Memorial coach Vinny Mistretta. “And keep doing the things we’ve been successful at.”

That mantra particularly applies to Jackson Memorial’s offense.

Junior running back Will Towns is not built like a workhorse back. At 5-11 and 190 pounds, Towns is built like a speedy home run back. But he is a workhorse nonetheless.

In the victory over Saint John Vianney, Towns carried the ball 30 times for 135 yards and a touchdown. In a 24-17 victory over Brick Memorial High School on Sept. 7, Towns toted the ball 21 times for 187 yards and a touchdown.

“Will is our centerpiece,” Mistretta said. “He’s made some nice plays.”

As Towns goes, so goes the Jackson Memorial running game. And as the Jackson Memorial running game goes, so goes Jackson Memorial.

Two other players rushed for touchdowns in the Brick Memorial victory. Senior quarterback Lonnie Cebulski ran for a 52-yard touchdown and 110 yards total in the Saint John Vianney triumph.

The emergence of Towns and the running game is huge for Jackson Memorial. Last year, the Jags struggled to score and help out a great defense, which was the main reason why they dropped four of their last five games, including an NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 sectional playoff opener to Brick Township, 17-3.

This year, the Jags are scoring and helping out that still good defense. Jackson Memorial’s defense has allowed 17 points or less in all four of its victories.

In the Saint John Vianney game, the Jackson Memorial defense limited the Lancers to completions on just nine of 25 passing attempts. The Jags also forced two turnovers, scoring a touchdown on one of them. Senior linebacker Nic Ford recovered a fumble and ran it 65 yards back to the house.

“Defensively we’ll be very, very good,” Mistretta said before the season.

He hasn’t been wrong.

The combination, defense plus running game, has helped the Jags win three games by just one score. They will surely have to play close games down the stretch and in the postseason, and they will have to win them if they want to make a playoff run.

“I expect us to compete and battle,” Mistretta said.

Jackson Memorial will get back on the field on Oct. 19 at Freehold High School. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.

Then the Jaguars will close the regular season with a really tough home game against Rumson-Fair Haven High School, one of the best football programs in the Shore Conference as well as in New Jersey. Kickoff for that one is scheduled for 7 p.m.