Pick-6 leads Jackson Memorial past Manalapan in Group 4 playoffs

TOWNSHIP OF JACKSON — Jackson Memorial’s football program is based on a powerful running game and fast, physical defense, and while the offense was tough from start to finish, the Jaguars defense played at championship level to extend its season.

Junior linebacker Ethan Kalinauskas returned a 77-yard interception for a touchdown and senior kicker Alexey Tselichchev 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, led a clutch defensive effort to defeat sixth-seeded Manalapan 10-7 and advance to the sectional semifinals on Friday night at the John J Munley Field.

Manalapan was driving late in the first half when pressure from lead 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 possession that followed, junior defensive back Albert D’Alessandro intercepted an angled pass to give Jackson the ball on his own 43-yard line with 39 seconds left before halftime. A 20-yard run from senior quarterback Tai Mann followed by a terrific catch from junior wide receiver Frank Castellano for a 28-yard gain put the ball to the Manalapan 11 and put Tselichchev to the basket for a 10-0 lead at halftime.

Manalapan drove to Jackson’s 18-yard line on the first set of the third quarter, but a 35-yard field goal attempt failed. Manalapan’s defense was outstanding throughout the game and continued to get the ball for the Braves offense, and Manalapan was able to find the end zone when senior receiver Alex Dille dunked for a touchdown reception from 26 yards from senior quarterback Matt Grzejka. with 9:15 remaining in the game.

Manalapan had two more possessions but was stopped on downs at the Jackson 25 when the Jaguars made a run attempt at 4th-and-2. Manalapan won the ball with 47 seconds left in the game but was at his own 31-yard line with no timeouts remaining. After a first down from Manalapan moved the ball into midfield, a sack from junior linebacker Brandon Bigelow sent the Braves away. Jackson stopped two final parting shots to hold on for the win.

Jackson travels to second-seeded Millville next Friday night. Millville beat Lacey, 49-6.

We’ll have more from this game, including an expanded photo gallery by Tom Smith, and reactions from players and coaches. Scroll down for photos and video highlights.

Jackson Memorial vs. Manalapan Football

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