Jersey Shore headed to 1st state final with victory over Lampeter-Strasburg
With a four-point lead and the ball, Jersey Shore was faced with a crucial third-and-seven with just over a minute left in the PIAA class AAAA semifinals against Lampeter-Strasburg Friday night.
Many coaches would have selected the conservative approach in the situation and dialed-up a run in an attempt to drain the clock. But not Tom Gravish and the Bulldogs’ offense.
Jersey Shore’s senior quarterback Branden Wheary, who tossed three touchdowns and threw for 252 yards in the game, took three steps and rifled a spiral to wide receiver Cayden Hess for a first down.
The aggressive approach on display by Jersey Shore on the game’s final drive revealed what kind of the team the Bulldogs are.
“We wanted to try to win with it with what we thought was our best plays, we had a good play there, if we’re not going to win the game we’re not going to lose because we’re too conservative,” Gravish said in regards to the play call late in the game on third down.
Gravish, who has led the Bulldogs to a perfect 10-0 record this season, quoted a Super Bowl winning coach after Jersey Shore’s 39-35 victory over Lampeter-Strasburg.
“Like Bill Cowher always talks about, four-minute offense, and we had four minutes to control the clock,” Gravish said.”
Cam Allison scored the game’s first touchdown when he took a sweep for a 24-yard score with 2:49 left in the first quarter. The Pioneers responded with a score of their own the next possession of the game. Beau Heyser hauled in a 42-yard touchdown pass from Sean McTaggart. It was quite the night for Heyser. The junior tight end totaled 220 yards on 10 catches, and three touchdowns.
After the two first quarter scores, one by each team, the football game turned into ‘basketball on grass.’ Five total touchdowns were scored in the second quarter alone.
Jersey Shore was not in favorable territory at halftime. The Bulldogs trailed Lampeter-Strasburg 28-21 at the end of the first half and were set to kickoff to begin the third.
The Bulldogs needed a stop in order to flip the game.
Jersey Shore’s defense stepped-up as it has all season long. The Bulldogs forced the Pioneers to punt on their first possession to begin the second half. Quincey Myers and Hayden Packer recorded back-to-back sacks on third and fourth down to give the ball to Jersey Shore’s offense.
Myers, who played a solid role for Jersey Shore’s defense throughout the game, said the coaches kept the team motivated at halftime. The senior defensive end said the stop to begin the second half was game-changing.
“It was exactly what coach told us to do. He said go out there and play hard, and they won’t be able to do anything. We just kept doing what coach told us to do,” Myers said.
Packer, who recorded the other sack on the game-changing drive, said the way Jersey Shore’s offense was able to score points Friday night was putting pressure on its defense to step-up.
“It just motivated us so much more, we knew the game was on the line, everyone was clicking on all four cylinders.” “It got us going even harder than before, and it pumped us it,” Packer said.
Karter Peacock led Jersey Shore in sacks with two on the night.
The game’s momentum had been changed. Lampeter-Strasburg had the ball and was looking to score. Jersey Shore’s Dalton Dugan had other plans instead.
Dugan read the play like a book, the senior linebacker intercepted McTaggart’s pass and returned it for a touchdown. Jersey Shore took the lead.
McTaggart snuck in a keeper with just under two minutes left in the third quarter to take the lead back for Lampeter-Strasburg.
Although, the lead did not last for long. Cayden Hess had a monstrous fourth quarter for the Bulldogs. Hess ran a flawless route near the end zone, and Wheary found him for a touchdown. Jersey Shore took the lead. Then, in desperate need of yet another stop, Hess intercepted the ball for Jersey Shore to give the ball back to the Bulldogs with just over four minutes left.
The interception came after Jersey Shore recovered a potential fumble. Although, the Lampeter-Strasburg receiver was called down.
Myers, who forced the fumble for Jersey Shore, bounced back on the next play and batted a pass down. Myers said it reflected the defense’s resiliency.
“We talk about next play mentality, and that might be a letdown for somebody. We kept battling and knew sooner or later we would make a play,” Myers said.
The Bulldogs then went into their four-minute offense Gravish referred to in order to closeout the game and secure a spot in the PIAA state title game.
“They have no quit in them. They will play 48 minutes and that’s all we said at halftime, we feel we’re in elite condition and eventually the game will turn our way,” Gravish said. “We left some possessions out there in the first half that we didn’t cash in, we just played it possession by possession and it ended up working out for us.”
Jersey Shore will meet Thomas Jefferson next Saturday in the PIAA Class AAAA state championship.