Jaguars seek return to state grid playoffs


Qualifying for the NJSIAA state playoffs was customary for the Jackson Memorial High School football team until the 2008 season came along.

The Jaguars did not qualify for the state playoffs for the first time in a decade and suffered through a 3-7 season.

Coach Mike Smith pointed to the large number of underclassmen on last year’s team and the cumulative effect of Jackson Liberty High School drawing athletes from a section of Jackson as reasons why the Jaguars may have struggled.

Jackson Memorial will open the 2009 season at home in a 7 p.m. kickoff on Sept. 17 vs. Manalapan High School.

“Having a new school (Jackson Liberty) snuck up on us because each year is a cumulative effect of losing 10 athletes a season and then 20 a season and eventually, it catches up,” said Smith. “We are coming out of it now with the freshman team (sending up players) and feeder programs.”

But Smith sees a positive effect from last season’s frustration on the Jaguars’ returning players.

“Preseason went well. The kids were motivated after last year’s performance and expect a lot more than last year,” said Smith. “I think what I like best is their attitude, their work ethic. They want to improve on last season and get back in the playoffs, which is where they should be.”

One trend continued: Tyler Wilton last season rushed for 1,000 yards, the 13th straight year a Jackson player has accomplish that feat.

But Wilton graduated in June and no one emerged strongly in that role coming into the final week of practice. Drew Murphy, whose brother Donald rushed for 1,000 yards in the 2006 season, is in the mix with senior classmate Larry Cella and junior Dave Niskanan.

Paul Hobbs, a senior, returns at fullback and is the Jaguars’ punter.

Those players’ running skills and the leadership of senior Garrett Dorsey returning at quarterback will determine whether Jackson Memorial can improve its scoring from last season playing out of the Multiple I formation.

The Jaguars will also be trying to cut down on mental mistakes.

Smith said the team “had big ones (mental mistakes) in key situations last season that cost us a few games.”

In that respect, Smith said Dorsey “is much improved. Last year he was an athlete who we stuck at quarterback and now he’s a quarterback. He’s an athlete, a gamer. He’s also playing safety and he leads by example. He gives all effort, all the time.”

Six players return on offense and the front seven are back on the 4-3 defense.

Along with Hobbs, returnees include seniors James Mentuck (6-1, 270), at left tackle, and right guard Terrance Brown (6- 3, 240), and junior left guard Dimitrius Smith on the line.

Seniors Travis Daidone (6-0, 220) at tight end and Anthony Petrom (5-10, 175) at wide receiver are back, but the other wideout spot is wide open, although senior Ryan Gladysz earned some praise from

Smith off his recent practices.

Breaking into the lineup in the trenches are juniors Joe Nolan (6- 4, 300) at center and Brian Bush (6-3, 310) at right tackle.

All of the front seven on defense started last year as they double off the offense. Smith and Mentuck are the tackles, Brown and Daidone are the ends, and Murphy, Cella and Hobbs are the linebackers.

Petro and senior Shawn Morales are the cornerbacks, and Dorsey and junior Jake Orehostky are the safeties and will share the kicking duties. Dorsey will kick off and Orehostky will kick extra points and field goals.

The team has experience, but much of the staff is new aside from offensive coordinator Bill Rankin, defensive coordinator Walt Krystopik and offensive line coach Tony Compitello.

New linebackers coach Nick Castellano played for Jackson Memorial in 2000 and 2001 before going on to a college career at Monmouth University.

Brian McNamara comes from Brick Township High School and will coach the defensive backs at Jackson Memorial.

Rob Dahl comes from Brick Township High School and will coach the quarterbacks at Jackson Memorial.

Russhon Anderson, an outstanding running back and defensive back at Brick Township High School earlier in this decade before embarking on a college career at Central Connecticut, is coaching the wide receivers.