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JACKSON TOWNSHIP -- The Jackson Memorial football program is one built on a power running game and a fast and physical defense, and while it was tough sledding for the offensive from start to finish, the Jaguars' defense played at a championship level to extend their season.

Junior linebacker Ethan Kalinauskas returned an interception 77 yards for a touchdown and senior kicker Alexey Tselichtchev connected on a 27-yard field goal, both in the final 65 seconds of the first half, as the Jaguars, seeded third in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group 4 playoffs, rode a  clutch defensive effort to a defeat sixth-seeded Manalapan, 10-7, and advance to the sectional semifinals on Friday night at John J. Munley Field.

Manalapan was driving late in the first half when pressure by senior linebacker Aidan Sweeney forced an errant throw that was intercepted by Kalinauskas and returned 77 yards for a touchdown with 1:02 left in the first half.

On the second play of the ensuing possession, junior defensive back Albert D'Alessandro intercepted a tipped pass to give Jackson the ball at its own 43-yard line with 39 seconds left before halftime. A 20-yard run by senior quarterback Tai Mann followed by a tremendous catch by junior wide receiver Frank Castellano for a 28-yard gain put the ball at the Manalapan 11 and set up Tselichtchev field goal for a 10-0 halftime lead.

Manalapan drove to Jackson's 18-yard line on the first series of the third quarter but a 35-yard field goal attempt came up short. Manalapan's defense was exceptional all game long and continued to get the ball back for the Braves' offense, and Manalapan was able to find the end zone when senior wideout Alex Dille made a diving catch for a 26-yard touchdown reception from senior quarterback Matt Grzejka with 9:15 left in the game.

Manalapan had two more possessions but was stopped on downs at the Jackson 25 when the Jaguars stuffed a run attempt on 4th and 2. Manalapan got the ball back with 47 seconds left in the game but was at its own 31-yard line with no timeouts remaining. After a Manalapan first down moved the ball to midfield, a sack by junior linebacker Brandon Bigelow pushed the Braves back. Jackson stopped two final separation throws to hold on for the victory.

Jackson will travel to second-seeded Millville next Friday night. Millville defeated Lacey, 49-6.

We will have more from this game, including an expanded photo gallery by Tom Smith, and player and coach reactions. Scroll down for photos and video highlights. 

Jackson Memorial vs. Manalapan Football




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