Jackson Memorial will rely on defense in state grid playoffs

Jackson Memorial High School's Jabari Lofton returns a punt during the team's practice. Jackson Memorial defeated Moorestown 20-0 in the first round of the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 Tournament.

 Defense has been the staple for the Jackson Memorial High School football team.

That rugged unit played a huge part in sending Jackson Memorial to the next round of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association sectional playoffs.

Jackson Memorial opened the Central Jersey, Group 4 state sectional playoffs on Nov 8 when it pitched a 20-0 shutout victory against Moorestown High School at Jack Munley Field in Jackson.

That sixth straight victory for  Jackson Memorial enabled the second-seeded Jaguars to serve as the host in the state sectional semifinals against third-seeded Toms River High School East on the evening of Nov. 15.

Jackson Memorial coach Vincent Mistretta knows his team is in for a battle with the  former rival in the Shore Conference’s A South Division.

The key to victory for the Jaguars is to continue limiting turnovers, playing good defense and making big plays.

“They don’t give out trophies for winning one playoff game,” Mistretta said. “We need to continue to work hard like we have all season if we want to play for a sectional championship.”

The state sectional playoff finals for public schools are slated for the weekend of Nov. 22-23.

The ferocious Jackson Memorial defense defense had two scoops and scores off fumble recoveries in the opening round victory over seventh-seeded Moorestown.

“Our defense played very well,” Mistretta said . “They set the tone for us. Our guys take pride in stopping the other team’s offense. It was a good team win.”

Wally Dorman shot the Jaguars into the lead with their first scoop and score of the night, returning his fumble recovery for a 65-yard touchdown to give Jackson Memorial a 6-0 lead.

The second fumble recovery and a score of the night for Jackson Memorial was by Zack Novak, who picked up the loose ball that was jarred free on a hit from Will Towns. Novak picked up the ball and ran 60 yards to the end zone.

Novak also had a touchdown reception in the victory for the Jaguars. 

Senior defensive end Colin McCarthy had a big night for the Jaguars when he racked up a game-high 3.5 sacks and seven tackles. He now has 17.5 sacks this season. McCarthy also had a forced fumble and one fumble recovery during the victory against the Burlington County visitor. 

Also starring on Jackson Memorial’s defense was Brian Zapata, a senior outside linebacker, who recorded two forced fumbles.

It’s the first shutout of the season for Jackson Memorial.

On the offensive side of the ball, senior quarterback Lonnie Cebulski threw for 120 yards and a touchdown. The quarterback now has six touchdown passes this fall.

Towns finished with 75 yards on the ground for the Jaguars. He has now run for 1,220 yards for the season.

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