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Jersey Shore a win away from playing in PIAA Class AAAA final in football

MARK NANCE/For The Express Jersey Shore’s Eddie Woodring celebrates after the Bulldogs defeated Crestwood in the PIAA Class AAAA quarterfinals last week.

For the second consecutive year, Jersey Shore finds itself one win away from the coveted state championship game at Hersheypark Stadium.

Coach Tom Gravish –who guided Jersey Shore to a perfect 10-0 record up to tonight’s PIAA Class AAAA semifinal game against Lampeter-Strasburg — says this year’s Bulldogs team is like last year’s squad which reached the Final Four in various ways. Gravish said it is challenging to measure both teams.

“When you always have hard workers, it is hard to compare them,” Gravish said, ” They have a lot of similarities, they have accepted all the challenges we have laid out for them.”

The Lampeter-Strasburg Pioneers, the District 3 champion, meet the Bulldogs with an equally impressive resume on the season. Led by coach John Mannion, Lampeter-Strasburg sits at 10-0. Like the Bulldogs, Lampeter-Strasburg has won each of its 10 games by a double-digit margin.

Gravish is excited for his team’s opportunity to battle with the Pioneers in tonight’s PIAA Class AAAA semifinal game. Lampeter-Strasburg is the most complete team the Bulldogs have encountered this fall.

“They can stop the run, pick the ball off, sack the quarterback and return punts. They’re just a good football team and we look forward to seeing how we match up. We’re going to give it everything we’ve got,” Gravish said.

Senior quarterback Sean McTaggart operates Lampeter-Strasburg’s high-powered offense. McTaggart, a dual-threat quarterback, has accounted for a total of 30 touchdowns this season. The senior tossed seven touchdowns in the Pioneers’ victory of Conrad Weiser two weeks ago.

Gravish knows what the senior quarterback is capable of doing to defenses.

“This guy has the best arm we’ve faced all year. He is the best pure passer we have seen; he loves getting five wide receivers out there,” Gravish said. “They throw the ball down the field more than anyone we have faced all year.”

On the opposing side of the ball for Lampeter-Strasburg, its defense plays an aggressive style. Like Jersey Shore, Lampeter-Strasburg does an exceptional job of getting after opposing quarterbacks and taking the ball away.

Senior defensive end Parker Owens has recorded 12 out of 20 sacks for the Pioneers this season. In the secondary, Berkley Wagner and Conner Nolt both have team-high three interceptions. Collectively, the Pioneers have 13 interceptions.

Gravish believes early down success is crucial for Jersey Shore tonight in order to find success offensively against such a talented defensive unit.

“We just have to what we do. We want to be in manageable down and distance situations. If we can get five or six yards on first down, that gives us a lot of options. That’s our goal. We want to give positive yards on every snap,” Gravish said.

The winner of tonight’s game between Jersey Shore and Lampeter-Strasburg will meet the winner of Thomas Jefferson and Oil City on Nov. 28 in the state championship game.

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