It was a game where youth was served for Jackson Liberty, but the Lions’ 63-28 victory over Pinelands Friday night also underscored the key roles fullback/middle linebacker Bruce Almodovar and other core starters have for the team.
Almodovar, a junior, rushed for 168 yards on 12 carries and scored a touchdown in the Shore Conference Class B South game but sophomores Matt Castronouva and Dom Regina made their mark by combining for seven touchdowns.
Castronouva was shifted from tailback to his first career start at quarterback. He rushed for 180 yards and completed 2 of 4 passes for 30 yards as Jackson Liberty (4-2, 3-2) snapped a two-game losing streak.
Almodovar said work by the team during the week to accommodate the changes paid off.
“The sophomores who get playing time definitely deserve it. They’re hard-working kids,” Almodovar said.
Regina had a 52-yard punt return that set up the first touchdown of the game. He also ran for two TDs and caught a 26-yard scoring pass from Castronouva.
“I thought we had good practices all week especially because we made a lot of changes,” said Jackson Liberty coach Tim Osborne. “We did a lot of new things and the players picked them up pretty quickly. It could have been a disaster tonight in a lot of ways if they didn’t pick up on the changes.”
Still, a section of game wasn’t pretty for Jackson Liberty against Pinelands (0-7, 0-5), which hasn’t won a game since 2010.
The Lions in the second quarter looked to be doing their best to throw away a 28-6 lead earned in the first quarter.
Things changed drastically after Jackson Liberty’s offense racked up 232 yards in total offense in the first quarter. The team posted minus-2 yards in the second quarter and failed to register a first down in two possessions.
Pinelands entered the game with a Shore Conference-high of 313 points-allowed but toughened up when linebackers Zach Schnepp and Gurkan Yilmaz combined for a fourth-and-one stop on a Regina carry. That contributed to momentum that produced a pair of touchdowns for Pinelands before the half ended.
Tyler Suralik scored on a two-yard run with 6:13 left in the second quarter and quarterback Dan MacPhee went in a one-yard keeper with 1:05 left, cutting a 22-point deficit to 28-21.
“The kids scratched and clawed all night,” said Pinelands coach Sean DeRosa. “When you’ve lost as many games in a row as we have, you’re fighting against everything. Nobody thinks you deserve to win. Nobody from the outside believes we can win. ”
Almodovar’s 21-yard TD run with 3:07 left in the third quarter provided breathing room at 35-21, however, and Castronouva’s 52-yard scoring run at the end of the quarter provided more insurance.
The game did not start with a competitive feel. Castronouva scored the first touchdown on a 16-yard run, though it didn’t come from the playbook. Cory Smith’s shotgun snap sailed high and out of reach but Castronouva gathered the ball at the 35 and outran the defense.
Pinelands quarterback Dan MacPhee answered with a 73-yard touchdown run, keeping the ball on the option after selling a speed sweep, but Jackson Liberty finished the quarter with a Regina three-yard scoring run and a 95-yard TD run by Castronouva.