JACKSON – Jackson Memorial senior Kyle Johnson is pretty familiar with the end zone and how to get there. He’s returned punts and interceptions for touchdowns. He’s the holder for kicker Jared Calhoun. He’s caught touchdown passes and he’s thrown scoring passes as a wide receiver on reverses.
But Johnson throwing a TD pass as a drop back quarterback? Never, until Friday night in the Jaguars’ 30-0 victory over Toms River East in a Shore Conference Class A South game.
Johnson this season has caught six touchdown passes but gave Jackson Memorial (5-3, 4-3) a fresh look when he took over the offense as a wildcat quarterback for a possession against winless Toms River East.
Johnson completed three passes, including a drop back 21-yard touchdown throw to Vincent Lee that made the score 16-0 with 30.8 seconds left in the first half.
On the other side of the ball, Johnson had an interception in the first quarter.
Johnson looked like he knew what he was doing at quarterback because he’s been there before, said coach Walter Krystopik.
“He was a freshman quarterback and came up in that position but we were established there so he moved to wide receiver,” Krystopik said. “He’s a very good athlete. He’s scored almost every way there is. His ability at quarterback gives us another option.”
Johnson said he enjoys taking on different roles.
“We’ve been working on different ways to get the ball in my hands, including some time at quarterback,” Johnson said. “It’s been a while since I’ve dropped back as a passer. I don’t mind doing different things.”
Jackson Memorial capped the scoring with a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter, starting with a two-yard pass from starting quarterback A.J. Tolmachewich to Tyler Towns, followed by a blocked punt that Connor Testa returned 10 yards for a touchdown.
Toms River East (0-8, 0-6) started the game looking good. The Raiders clicked off four first downs in the first quarter, a contrast to failing to move the chains in the first half of last week’s loss to Freehold.
But East’s hopes for an upset took a hit when Jackson Memorial put together a seven-play drive that resulted in Calhoun’s 20-yard field goal with 1:54 left in the first quarter.
Jackson Memorial, which ended a three-game losing streak last week by beating Toms River South 28-7, made that bad stretch look like a distant memory in a powerful drive 10-play, 70-yard drive that paid off with a 2-yard touchdown run by Mike Gawlik. Gawlik carried the ball on all but two plays of the march as Jackson Memorial took a 16-0 lead and had a game-high 149 yards rushing.
Next week Jackson Memorial faces Red Bank Catholic, one year after the Jaguars snapped the Caseys’ 40-game winning streak against Shore Conference competition.
“It’s going to be a really physical game. Us beating them last year ended their streak and they’re going to come out hungry,” Johnson said.
Key plays: Jackson Memorial pushed into the red zone but Toms River East held in the first quarter. Enter dependable kicker Jared Calhoun, whose 20-yard field goal gave the Jaguars early breathing room.
Offensive game ball: Mike Gawlik collected 149 rushing yards for Jackson Memorial.
Up next: Jackson Memorial has Red Bank Catholic on Friday. Toms River East hosts Lacey Saturday.
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