High-scoring offense leading Jackson Memorial boys lacrosse

Jaguars (9-1) are on a five-game win streak


Jackson Memorial High School’s boys lacrosse team lost some marquee players from a year ago, but the team hasn’t missed a beat while building toward another great 9-1 start under new head coach James Buchanan.

“We’re not even thinking [ahead] about tournaments, but we’re just looking at what we’re doing right now,” said Buchanan, as the Jaguars reached the Shore Conference Tournament championship game the past two seasons. Early this year, Jackson Memorial knocked off the team that beat them at the Shore Conference Tournament finals both of those times — Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School — by an 8-6 score.

Jackson Memorial has reeled off five straight victories since losing a triple-overtime game to Southern Regional High School, which is unbeaten coming into this week.

Buchanan said power point ratings in lacrosse include the number of double-digit victories — and his team has six of them. The Jaguars also had a 12-3 triumph over Brick Township High School on April 27, with senior attackman Nick Balsamo, as well as senior midfielders Nick Specht and twin brother Mike Specht, stoking the offense, while junior goalkeeper Cody Weisel turned away many scoring opportunities.

Credit that defensive effort largely to the play of junior long stick middie Vin Celidonio, Buchanan said, and a solid supporting cast of seniors Pat Duggan and Ryan Young, as well as junior Bob Chitren.

The Jaguars sealed lopsided victories over Jackson Liberty High School, 13-3, Lacey Township High School, 17-4, Barnegat High School, 14-3, Brick Memorial Memorial High School, 15-2, and Toms River High School North, 15-6, and a tighter 12-8 triumph over Manasquan High School.

“They’re really good together, a close- knit group,” Buchanan said, as he has looked to inspire his players just about every day with military slogans, such as the “Warrior’s Creed.”

“The seniors were that way before I got here. They take care of each other. And this week, all of them are involved in AP [advanced placement] testing, which shows how smart they are. They’re good to each other and are fun to watch.” That unity showed when Jackson Memorial rallied for a game-tying goal in the final minute against Southern Regional, which sent the game into overtime.

Senior Corey Chadwick, along with juniors Jan Niec and Jeff Galatola, have also given depth in the midfield.

But can they contend at the end?

“We’ll see,” Buchanan said.

Jackson Liberty

While Jackson Memorial is enjoying another solid season, Jackson Liberty (3-6) is building for the future behind new coach Jim Sharples. He is assisted by Mark Lax, who built a winning Jackson Liberty boys basketball team from scratch six years ago and also took over the school’s boys soccer team that enjoyed another fine season last fall. The lacrosse team’s six seniors also are providing good leadership for the young players making their way.

Sharples said freshman goalkeeper Chris Mulholland “is starting to come around,” while Mulholland’s older brother, James, is one of the senior midfielders providing leadership and stability. Brandon Kokich and Alex Castellano help in those areas, as well. Freshman Chris Stefanowicz is emerging as a solid long stick middie, while junior Dominick Legotte has been the anchor on defense.

“We found out what a difference he made when he was out for a game and we gave up 17 goals — the most we allowed all year,” Sharples said.

Senior Steve Quaranta is the big scoring threat, whether he plays in the midfield or on the attack. Quaranta provided the big plays when Jackson Liberty scored its best victory this season, 8-6, over Toms River High School North on April 24. The Lions also rallied back before losing by three goals to Lacey. They had a competitive loss to Ocean Township High School, as well.

“It’s [having] confidence. If they get off to a good start and play with confidence, they’re a different team,” Sharples said. “If they get off to a rocky start, they don’t always know how to fight back.”

Coming into the season, Sharples knew, even with his knowledge, it would be a challenge for a young team looking to establish its winning ways. The coach has managed to fit the right players into the right positions and situations as the team continues to show signs of improving. After games on April 29 against Wall High School and May 1 against unbeaten Southern Regional at home, the Lions play at Brick Memorial on May 3.