Out for Redemption: 2022 Jackson Memorial High School Football Preview
Last year, Jackson Memorial entered the season with plans to rebound from a .500 record and return to its usual position of contending for division and state sectional championships. Instead, injuries and ineffectiveness led to the Jaguars going 3-6, missing the playoffs, having an offense ranked near the bottom of the Shore Conference, and a defense that was only in the middle of the pack.
To say this has the returning team members a little ticked off would be putting it mildly.
"We aren't having another season like last year, that's just a fact," said senior two-way lineman Ryan Fischer. "We're working hard and we're ready to hit people."
With veterans returning on both sides of the ball, the Jaguars are aiming for a redemptive season this fall. Eight starters return on both sides of the ball, giving the Jags talent and experience to go along with an ornery mindset heading into their season-opener vs. Brick Memorial on Sept. 1.
Returning for his third year as the team's starting quarterback in their multiple-I offense is senior Tai Mann. An athletic, dual-threat QB, Mann is coming off a season in which he threw for 684 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 506 yards and eight touchdowns. Joining him in the backfield is senior running back Aidan Sweeney, who ran for 573 yards and five touchdowns a season ago. With junior fullback Brandon Bigelow also back, the Jaguars are excited about the 1-2 punch of Mann and Sweeney wreaking havoc on the ground.
Jackson's top two wide receivers are a pair of junior returning starters in Albert D'Alessandro and Jaiden Hernandez with fellow junior Ryan Jagodzinski rounding out the trio.
The offensive line has two returning starters - three if you count junior Shaun Hubbard as a returning starter at tight end. The left side of the line features returning starters Fischer (6-3, 270) at left guard and senior Lucas Stahlnecker (6-2, 235) at left tackle. The center is senior Dylan Kronseder (6-0, 250), the right guard is junior Austin Comire (6-2, 250), and the right tackle is sophomore Harold Mee (6-1, 230).
Jackson's defense is usually among the stingiest and most physical in the Shore, and this year's group is eager to regain their swagger after a down year.
The defensive line is shaping up to be a strong unit with three of four starters back. Hubbard and senior Angelo Nicosia are the defensive ends while Fischer is a returning starter at defensive tackle. Junior Zach Elfashny has earned the starting job as the other defensive tackle. At linebacker, senior Mike Cipriano is back as the middle linebacker after recording a team-high 84 tackles last season. He will be flanked by Bigelow and Sweeney on the outside.
The defensive backfield has three returning starters with Mann at cornerback for the third straight year, Hernandez at strong safety, and D'Alessandro at free safety. The newcomer is junior Frank Castellano at the other cornerback spot opposite Mann.
On special teams, senior Alexey Tselichtchev is back as the kicker while Nicosia will handle the punting duties.
After competing in the Colonial Division last season with Middletown South, Southern, Manalapan, and Holmdel, the Jaguars will now play in the Constitution Division with Howell, Marlboro, Colts Neck, Freehold Township, and Freehold Boro. It's a wide-open division on paper and one the Jaguars could certainly find themselves on top of if all goes according to plan.
At a Glance
Projected starters (RS=returning starter, 3RS=3rd-year returning starter)
QB: Tai Mann, Sr., 3RS
RB: Aidan Sweeney, Sr., RS; Brandon Bigelow, Jr., RS
WR: Albert D’Alessandro, Jr., RS; Jaiden Hernandez, Jr., RS; Ryan Jagodzinski, Jr.
TE: Shaun Hubbard, Jr., RS
LT: Lucas Stahlnecker, Sr., RS
LG: Ryan Fischer, Sr., RS
C: Dylan Kronseder, Sr.
RG: Austin Comire, Jr.
RT: Harold Mee, So.
DE: Angelo Nicosia, Sr., RS
DT: Zach Elfashny, Jr.
DT: Ryan Fischer, Sr., RS
DE: Shaun Hubbard, Jr., RS
OLB: Brandon Bigelow, Jr.
MLB: Mike Cipriano, Sr., RS
OLB: Aidan Sweeney, Sr.
CB: Tai Mann, Sr., 3RS
CB: Frank Castellano, Jr.
SS: Jaiden Hernandez, Jr., RS
FS: Albert D'Alessandro, Jr., RS
K: Alexey Tselichtchev, Sr., RS
P: Angelo Nicosia, Sr., RS
Head coach: Vin Mistretta, 6th season
Career record: 27-22
Team record last five years:
Assistant coaches: Keith Anderson (Offensive Coordinator/RB); Mike Smith (QB); Pat Kilmurray (OL); Eric Rado (WR); Matt Castronuova (WR); Chris Rash (DL/Special Teams Coordinator); Arnell Cozart (LB); Mike McCarthy (DL); Sal Giglio (LB); TJ Tkac (DB); Khani Glover (DB); Sal Mistretta (Quality Control); Nicolle Figaro (Athletic Trainer).
Player to Watch: Tai Mann, Sr., QB/CB
Mann combined for 1,190 yards and 12 touchdowns last season and the coaching staff believes he can have a big year as a senior. He has the athleticism and experience to make it happen. Mann is also a three-year starter at cornerback.
Player Under the Radar: Aidan Sweeney, Sr., RB/OLB
Being a tailback in Jackson's offense is often a golden ticket to stardom. Sweeney ran for 573 yards and five touchdowns as a junior and is aiming to hit the 1,000-yard mark and help the Jaguars' offense get back to its punishing ways.
Impact Newcomer: Harold Mee, So., RT
Mee (6-foot-1, 230 pounds) is the only sophomore currently scheduled to start and will line up at right tackle.
Rivalry Game: Sept. 30 at Jackson Liberty
The Jaguars have owned the all-time series since Liberty opened in 2006 with Memorial winning every game but one. This game has been more competitive in recent years, although the Jags have won by shutout each of the past two seasons. Rivalry games are dangerous, however, and this game carries a lot of juice regardless of each team's record.
Sept. 1 - vs. Brick Memorial, 6 p.m.
Sept. 9 - @Howell, 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 16 - vs. Colts Neck, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 - vs. Freehold, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 - @Jackson Liberty, 6 p.m.
Oct. 8 - @Marlboro, 12 p.m.
Oct. 14 - vs. Donovan Catholic, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21 - @Freehold Township, 6:30 p.m.