Bulldogs end losing streak with 39-8 win over Shikellamy
By MITCH RUPERT
JERSEY SHORE – A first-quarter swing pass to Jersey Shore’s Josh Malicky wasn’t designed to go for a touchdown. Not from 77 yards away.
But as Bulldogs coach Tom Gravish pondered that notion for a moment, he wasn’t willing to accept the premise.
“Just getting him out in space makes him a dangerous runner,” Gravish said.
Dangerous, he was. Malicky caught the swing pass from quarterback Tanner Lorson and barely had his jersey tousled by the Shikellamy defense Friday night. Running like he was fired from a slingshot, Malicky covered the 77 yards for the first of his two touchdowns last night in less time than it took Gravish to contradict the assumption the play shouldn’t go for a touchdown.
Malicky helped get the Shore offense last night at Thompson Street Stadium. Malicky posted 132 yards of offense in the first quarter along with a pair of touchdowns as the Bulldogs snapped a two-game losing streak with a 39-8 win over Shikellamy. The Shore defense held Shikellamy to just 79 first-half yards as it built a 33-point lead, and the only touchdown it surrendered was after the starters had been lifted from the game. The Bulldogs averaged better than 10 yards per play in the first half and finished with 403 yards of offense.
“Whether we won the last two weeks or not we needed to play well,” Gravish said. “It’s important to make a state coming back. And now we’re going to get right back to the drawing board because Shamokin is going to be a tough challenge.”
“This was a real confidence booster,” Malicky said. “The last two losses were tough and I think we started to question ourselves. But this really put us back on track.”
Gravish never once saw a look of concern in the eyes of his team over the last two weeks. Losses to undefeated Montoursville and to three-win Mount Carmel were far from bad losses. But as week after failing to score on three trips inside the 15-yard line, Gravish and his coaching staff spent the week challenging his team to get off to a good start and find an offensive rhythm.
That’s exactly what Malicky did when he caught that swing pass from Lorson. The Bulldogs’ first possession ended with an interception when Lorson had a pass tipped into the air at the line of scrimmage which allowed Shikellamy’s Brayden Long to come down with an interception.
So on the first play after forcing a Braves punt, Gravish called Malicky’s number on the swing pass. There was a lane open in front of him and he slipped out of one real tackle attempt along the sideline. Otherwise, his legs were a blue of bright orange speed as he left the Shik defense chasing him fruitlessly.
“We practiced it all week. All that work really paid off,” Malicky said. “The receivers did a really good job of blocking and it got everybody excited, especially at the beginning of the game like that.”
“With him running that swing pass, it’s capable of going for a touchdown,” Gravish said. “He was shot out of a cannon. He got us started and got us rolling.”
Malicky’s TD started a run of three consecutive possessions which ended in touchdowns for Jersey Shore, the longest of which was just two plays. Stanton Westlin’s 33-yard reception on a pump-and-go set up Malicky’s 3-yard scoring run on the next play. And five minutes later, Lorson ran right on a bootleg and got a tremendous downfield block from receiver Cayden Hess to turn what should have been a first down run into a touchdown run.
The 47-yard scoring run from Lorson was his longest gain of the season. It was also his seventh rushing touchdown. The junior second-year starter accounted for 272 total yards last night throwing for 214 yards on just 10 completions and running for another 58. Lorson threw TD passes Nos. 9, 10 and 11 last night, to three receivers.
“He’s played a big role in this offense,” Malicky said. “I think last year gave him the experience he needed to get ready for this year. Now he looks faster, his throws are more accurate, and overall his throws have improved.”
“Our receivers did a great job of blocking all night and we’ve been working hard on it,” Gravish said. “Coach (Eric) Hess works with them on that every day. And when they did catch the ball they got some good yards after the catch, too. Hats off to those guys.”
Jersey Shore’s 20-0 lead after the first quarter was never going to be threatened by Shikellamy’s offense. The Braves struggled to find any continuity in its offense in the first half. Their best opportunity to score was a wide receiver pass by Mason Brubaker in the first quarter which sailed over the head of the wide open receiver 30 yards downfield.
Shikellamy’s Wing-T base offense gained just 51 rushing yards on 22 carries in the first half thanks to a suffocating defensive line which was so stingy that a 3-yard gain look like 30 yards. And forcing the Braves to throw worked perfectly into the hands of the Jersey Shore defense.
The Bulldogs constantly made Shikellamy quarterback Drew Balestrini uncomfortable in the pocket. He threw two of his three interceptions in the first half, one to Anthony Shaffer and one to Cam Allison. He added a third in the third quarter to Shaffer, who now had three interceptions this season. His two interceptions came after allowing a long completion on third-and-forever in the first quarter. But he rebounded to make up for the one play.
“We didn’t even have to yell at him or say what the heck is going on. We knew he’d battle back and end up making plays,” Gravish said. “We’ve got secondary guys who, as long as they stay on top, can make some big plays for us.”
Jersey Shore 39, Shikellamy 8
Shikellamy0 0 2 6 – 8
Jersey Shore20 13 6 0 – 39
JS – Josh Malicky 77 pass from Tanner Lorson (Cam Allison kick), 8:02
JS – Malicky 3 run (kick failed), 6:39
JS – Lorson 47 run (Allison kick), 1:39
JS – Owen Anderson 28 pass from Lorson (kick blocked), 6:35
JS – Cayden Hess 7 pass from Lorson (Allison kick), 1:21
S – Safety, ball fumbled in end zone, 9:30
JS – Allison 27 blocked punt return (kick failed), 8:31
S – John Peifer 29 pass from Mason Brubaker (kick failed), 2:20
Rushing-Shikellamy, Joel Derr, 8-36; Nathan Minnier, 3-35; Mason Brubaker, 1-28; Zahki Nettles, 7-24; Coltyn Sempko, 3-11; Drew Balestrini, 10-7. Jersey Shore, Josh Malicky, 15-63, TD; Tanner Lorson, 3-58, TD; Dawson Sechrist, 9-47; Owen Anderson, 2-15; Donald Steinbacher, 3-6.
Passing-Shikellamy, Drew Balestrini, 8-24-3, 105 yds.; Mason Brubaker, 1-2-0, 29 yds., TD; Nathan Minnier, 0-1-0. Jersey Shore, Tanner Lorson, 10-14-1, 214 yds., 3 TDs.
Receiving-Shikellamy, John Peifer, 4-52, TD; Davis Marshall, 2-35; Brayden Long, 1-20; Nathan Minnier, 1-17; Eric Shoch, 1-8. Jersey Shore, Stanton Westlin, 3-56; Josh Malicky, 2-97, TD; Owen Anderson, 2-38, TD; Cayden Hess, 2-5, TD; Anthony Shaffer, 1-18.
Interceptions-Jersey Shore: Anthony Shaffer (2), Cam Allison; Shikellamy: Brayden Long.
RECORDS: Jersey Shore (3-2); Shikellamy (0-5).