With three touchdowns and three interceptions in a wild third quarter, Toms River South thrived in the role of spoiler Saturday night.
The Indians’ rally, energized by defensive back Darrius Hart, lifted them to a 33-14 victory over Jackson Memorial, denying the Jaguars a chance to claim sole possession of first place in Shore Conference Class A South.
Hart intercepted two of Joe DeMaio’s passes in the third quarter and Russell Messler also made a pick. The 21-0 rally started with Otis Kearney’s 80-yard touchdown run on the first play of the quarter and the momentum continued when Hart caught a seven-yard touchdown pass from Tymere Berry and on Khaleel Greene’s 53-yard scoring run on the last play of the quarter, making the score 33-14.
Berry completed 8 of 13 passes for 192 yards with no interceptions. Meanwhile Hart and the South secondary held DeMaio to a 6 of 17 night for 58 yards. Jackson Memorial’s Khani Glover had a game-high 110 rushing yards.
Jackson Memorial (3-2, 3-1) is tied with Lacey and Brick at the top of A South, but Toms River South (3-2, 2-2) is now within reach.
The Jaguars thus missed out on a golden opportunity to make a statement and gain space over their rivals. Current coach Walt Krystopik was the defensive coordinator under Mike Smith, who registered a 54-32 record in his eight years as coach. The Jaguars qualified for the postseason five times under Smith and won a 2005 NJSIAA sectional title. But the program has had uneven success since. A 6-4 campaign in 2010 and 8-2 mark under Krystopik in 2011 have been the only winning season since 2006. Jackson Memorial was 3-7 last season.
Thanks to Marcus Ademilola, who blocked an extra-point kick, Jackson Memorial took a 14-12 lead into the halftime break.
Jackson Memorial opened the game with an 11-play drive but it was withstood by Toms River South, thanks in part to penalty that persuaded the Jaguars to punt on fourth down rather than try for converting. DeMaio found tight end Brody Graham for 12 yards on play-action but it was mostly Khani Glover who moved the ball downfield, rushing 10 times for 24 yards as the Jaguars clicked off three first downs. On fourth-and seven at the South 39, an illegal shift prompted Jackson Memorial to punt rather than go for it.
Toms River South’s first drive started at the 10 after the punt and it produced results. Berry hit Jared Egan on a sideline route and Egan won his footrace until being caught by Glover on a 59-yard play. The Indians scored the game’s first points on Berry’s 14-yard pass to Hart with 2:28 left in the first quarter.
But it stayed 6-0. Russell Messler’s extra-point kick was blocked by Ademilola, a 6-foot-3 senior who gained a clear path to the kicker.
That allowed Jackson Memorial to gain the lead when Ken Bradley got into the end zone on a 7-yard run, with Jared Calhoun’s kick making it 7-6 as the clock showed 8:32 left in the second quarter. Glover’s 23-yard run and passes DeMaio to Ademilola and Vinny Celidonio set up Bradley’s touchdown.
Memorial made it 14-6 with 3:37 left in the half on DeMaio’s 65-yard option keeper.
Toms River South’s offense perked up again and the Indians scored in the final minute of the half on Berry’s eight-yard run. Berry overthrew Hart on a two-point pass attempt, allowing Jackson Memorial to cling to a 14-12 lead.
The touchdown was set up by long Berry passes to Egan and Messler covering a combined 55 yards.