JACKSON – The first six games of the 2021 high school football season had their share of struggles and tough losses for the Jackson Memorial High School football team.
However, after that initial adversity, Coach Vin Mistretta watched his Jaguars right the ship during their final three games to end the season with a 3-6 record.
Now, as his players prepare to begin a new season, Mistretta wants them to build off last season’s late surge as they seek to return the program to its winning ways.
Jackson Memorial will open the 2022 season on Sept. 1 with home a game against Brick Memorial High School of Brick Township.
“All during the off-season we talked about building off what we did (in the final three games of 2021) and setting new expectations for this season,” Mistretta said. “The great thing is that most of the guys (playing this year) were the ones who won those (three games) last year. They stepped up and had some success.”
Senior Tai Mann returns at quarterback following his first full season as the starter in 2021.
A year ago, Mann passed for 682 yards and four touchdowns, while he rushed for 506 yards and eight touchdowns.
Jackson Memorial’s backfield is expected to feature senior running back Aidan Sweeney, who rushed for a team-high 573 yards in 2021 and scored five touchdowns.
Mistretta is excited to have junior Albert D’Alessandro back in the Jaguars’ lineup in 2022.
D’Alessandro burst onto the scene in 2021 as he recorded 625 all-purpose yards with four touchdowns as a running back, wide receiver and kickoff/punt returner.
D’Alessandro and junior Jaiden Hernandez bring experience to the receiving corps and have been “making plays all over the place” during training camp, according to the coach.
Junior Shaun Hubbard returns to the starting lineup at tight end.
Newcomers on offense Mistretta is excited about are freshman Jonah Glenn (running back), senior Angelo Nicosia (tight end/fullback) and junior wide receivers Frankie Castellano and Ryan Jagodzinski. Nicosia will also handle the punting duties.
In the trenches, seniors Lucas Stahlnecker and Ryan Fischer will be key pieces on the offensive and defensive lines. Hubbard will see time at defensive end.
Sophomore Harold Mee and juniors Brandon Bigelow, Austin Comire and Zach Elfashny are expected to make an impact in the trenches this season.
The leader of the defense will be senior linebacker Michael Cipriano, who returns after recording 84 tackles in 2021. Senior Tyler Domanico is expected to see time at outside linebacker.
D’Alessandro and Hernandez will lead the secondary.
This season, Jackson Memorial will compete in the Shore Conference Constitution Division with Freehold Township High School, Colts Neck High School, Freehold High School, Howell High School and Marlboro High School.
“I think everyone is very evenly matched in our division. We expect to be very tough,” Mistretta said.
The main focus right now for Mistretta and the Jaguars is the season opener in Jackson on Sept. 1 against Brick Memorial. The coach is hoping his team can start the new season on the right foot after starting last season with six straight losses.
The final weeks of training camp will see the players focusing on continuing to play good defense and improving on offense, according to the coach.
“We have to play physical Jackson football” against Brick Memorial, Mistretta said. “Hopefully that will lead to us having some success on offense.”
Last season’s 3-6 campaign was the first time Jackson Memorial finished with a losing record since 2012. During the last 10 years, the Jaguars are 60-36 and have won two Central Jersey Group IV state sectional championships.