The Jackson Memorial and Manalapan football teams have an interesting relationship.
Manalapan snapped Jackson Memorial’s then 26-game winning streak with a 30-18 win at Jackson Memorial’s Jack Munley Field in Week 2 of the 2002 season. Manalapan’s head coach at that time happened to be former Jaguars standout quarterback and former Rutgers quarterback Tom Tarver.
Jackson Memorial is the last Shore Conference team to defeat Manalapan. The Braves have won 19 straight against Shore Conference opposition since a 12-7 loss at Jack Munley Field on Sept. 9, 2011.
Manalapan has gone 6-5 against Jackson Memorial since 2002. Jackson Memorial had won three straight over Manalapan before the Braves’ 30-12 win in the season-opener last season.
The two Group V schools have met every season since 1997 and have formed a healthy respect for each other.
“We’ve always loved playing them,” said Manalapan coach Ed Gurrieri.
“They’re always one of the top teams in (Shore Conference Class) A North. We know we’re going to get a very well-coached team,” said Jackson Memorial coach Walt Krystopik.
Tonight, weather permitting, Jackson Memorial (3-0), ranked No. 10 in the Asbury Park Press Top 10, will play at No. 2 Manalapan (3-0) in an intriguing nondivisional game.
Other key games this weekend, in which the weather could be a factor as far as reschedulement of games or with field conditions are: Fourth-ranked Middletown South (2-1) at Manasquan (3-1) on Saturday in a nondivisional game; Brick Memorial (2-2) at Neptune (2-2) tonight in a nondivisional game; Point Pleasant Beach (3-1, 1-0) at Asbury Park (2-1, 1-1) tonight in Class B Central, and Wall (3-1) at No. 8 Brick (3-1) Saturday at 1 p.m. at Drum Point School, Brick. The Drum Point School field is a FieldTurf surface.
Also, tonight, No. 3 Lacey (4-0) could give head coach Lou Vircillo, the only head football coach the school has had, career win No. 263 with a victory at Manchester (0-4). That would tie Vircillo, who is in his 33rd season at Lacey and also was Red Bank Regional’s head coach for five seasons before that with the late Vic Kubu for second on the Shore’s all-time wins list. Kubu coached at Middletown North from 1975-84 and at his scholastic alma mater, Manasquan, from 1985-2006. Former Brick and Lakewood coach Warren Wolf is the Shore’s all-time winningiest coach with 364.
The Jackson Memorial at Manalapan game is the Game of the Week with video highlights available on APP.com early Saturday morning.
There have been similarities between Jackson Memorial and Manalapan through the years.
Both programs have grinded out 1,000-yard rushers year after year. Jackson Memorial has had a 1,000-yard rusher 14 of the last 16 seasons. Manalapan has had a 1,000-yard rusher 10 straight seasons, including 2,000-yard plus rushers in 2010 and 2011.
It was no accident Gurrieri, who is in his seventh season as Manalapan’s head coach over two different tenures modeled much of his team’s philosophy after Jackson Memorial’s after he became Manalapan’s coach for his first tenure.
“Back in the late ’90s and early 2000s, they (Jackson Memorial) were the team (Jackson Memorial had legendary 12-0 teams in both 2000 and 2001 and another 12-0 team in 2005),” Gurrieri said. “When I took over as the head coach at Manalapan the first time, I said, ‘We’ve got to get bigger and stronger and more like Jackson.’ We kind of patterned ourselves after them.”
What patterning a team after Jackson Memorial meant was to install the I-formation on offense (an offense the Jaguars ran for years before shifting more to the spread in recent seasons).
“They (Jackson Memorial) are always tough hard-nosed kids. That goes back to Castellano, Serratelli, Brown (former Jaguars linebackers Nick Castellano, Joe Serratelli and lineman Ray Brown), you name them,” Gurrieri said.
“They (Manalapan) are like an old-school Jackson team in that they’re going to run the ball at you. They’re going to run power, counter, wham and iso (isolation) and then take their shots with the athletes they have on the outside,” Krystopik said.
Manalapan’s running game, like Jackson Memorial’s running game, is able to function no matter what the situation at tailback is.
Senior Tyler Leonetti, who ran for almost 1,400 yards last season, was sidelined after the second series of the Braves’ 29-14 win over Middletown South last week with a sprained ankle. Backup Imamu Mayfield, a transfer from Freehold, came in and ran for 112 yards and a touchdown.
Gurrieri said Leonetti is questionable for tonight, but the injury does not appear to be long-term.
Jackson Memorial has its own solid running back in senior Khani Glover.
What makes Manalapan difficult to defend is the presence of senior Rutgers University-bound wide receiver Saeed Blacknall.
“You have to play the run well, but if you have to pack the box they definitely have the kids who can make you pay for it. They make you play them honestly,” Krystopik said.
This is actually the second time the two teams have had to prepare for each other this season. They were supposed to meet in the opener on Sept. 12, but the game was postponed because of lightning. This was supposed to be the bye week for both teams.
“It does make it little wacky, but the good part of it most of the stuff (preparation) was already in,” Gurrieri said.
The Middletown South-Manasquan game is a meeting of the two programs that are 1-2 in the history of the Shore Conference in sectional championships. Manasquan has won 11 sectional titles. Middletown South has nine. It is the second straight season the two have met. Middletown South won, 42-13, last season at Middletown South’s “The Swamp.”
This meeting will come on what could be a muddy Vic Kubu Warrior Field playing surface and will also mean a “home game” of sorts for Middletown South coach Steve Antonucci. Antonucci lives in Manasquan.
“It’s going to be a little awkward. I’ve never coached (a football game) at Manasquan. I’ve coached baseball there (Antonucci was Middletown South’s successful baseball coach from 1996-2009),” Antonucci said.
Both programs, while having solid seasons, are trying to get back to a championship level. Middletown South has not won a sectional title since 2006 or a divisional title since 2009. Manasquan has not won a sectional title since 2008 or a divisional title since 2010.
“It will be a great atmosphere and be a lot of fun and a good opportunity,” Antonucci said.