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Jersey Shore erupts in second half and stays undefeated

SELINSGROVE-Haydn Packer and Jersey Shore’s offensive linemen took turns throughout the second half Saturday night seeing who could inflict more damage. Packer provided bruising runs and the line punishing blocks.

Call it a draw.

The backs and the line set a physical tone, Jersey Shore ran its no-huddle offense faster than cars at the Daytona 500 and all the pieces of an offensive machine fired together throughout the game’s final two quarters. Packer ran for a career-high 129 yards and three touchdowns, the line paved the way for 527 yards and Elijah Jordan added two scores as Jersey Shore routed Lewisburg, 47-8 at Selinsgrove’s Harold Bolig Field.

The game was moved from Lewisburg to Selinsgrove since Bucknell was hosting its Homecoming festivities and Jersey Shore turned the turf into both a race track and a battleground. The Bulldogs (4-0) ran a staggering 97 plays, allowed just 108 yards and pulled away from determined Lewisburg with a near flawless second-half performance.

“Once everyone starts working together, we start clicking and, with that fast-paced offense we have, it’s tough to stop,” Packer said after running for 112 second-half yards and playing another fantastic game at linebacker. “Just hammering the football and giving it to them felt good. It felt good coming off the blocks of Dierk Stetts who was blocking that end so well that it made it easy. All the receivers and slots were holding their blocks 7-8 seconds, so I couldn’t ask them to do anything better than that.”

Jersey Shore often runs its no-huddle offense quicker than a child on a sugar rush talks, but took it to another level Saturday. The Bulldogs ran 51 first-half plays, 46 more in the second half and produced consistent yards all night. The difference between the halves was they finished the promising drives which stalled or ended in turnovers over those first 24 minutes. Jersey Shore scored touchdowns on four of its last five possessions, put up 20 points in the third quarter and wore out a team playing for the first time in two weeks.

Jersey Shore averaged 5.4 yards per play and quarterback Brady Jordan threw for 180 yards. The Bulldogs had 29 first downs to Lewisburg’s four and ran 56 more plays, dominating time of possession and, ultimately, the second half.

Stetts, Jared Palski, Zach Rooney, Luke Springman and Donald Steinbacher are all new starters and produced their best performance thus far. They exploded off the ball, kept pushing Lewisburg back and then watched their bevy of hard-nosed running backs gain yards after contact as they never went down easy.

“We’re really putting in the work at practice. We’re making every minute count. Everyone is giving their all every day,” said Palski, who also had a sack. “We’ve been playing since middle school together so we’re used to each other and that helps.”

“On offense our biggest thing is we try and get as much movement as possible. If they’re moving backward we’re moving forward,” said Stetts, who also was key to the defense’s success. “At halftime we went in and talked and we knew by the end of the second quarter they were feeling it, so we all came out ready to go and ready to fire off the ball.”

They did. A lot. Packer fed off the line and vice-versa and his 15-yard run to the 3-yard line on which the junior all-state linebacker ran over three defenders lit the fuse He scored a play later and fanned the flames which soon turned into an inferno.

“I just like to hit people,” Packer said. “I consider myself more of a defensive player but I’m going to try and do whatever I can on offense, too.”

Packer turned blocker on the next touchdown, leveling a defender and helping lead the way for Jordan who scored on a 2-yard run. Jordan (85 yards) capped Jersey Shore’s next drive with a 4-yard touchdown and Jersey Shore built a 33-8 lead. Tate Sechrist also ran for a touchdown and Connor Griffin, Cayden Hess, Kooper Peacock and Nick Williams made big plays in the passing game.

The defending Eastern Region Class AAAA champions feature several new starters but they are jelling and growing up fast. That second half might have been this group’s big breakout performance.

“When we’re out there, we know they’re getting yards because of how hard they’re running and they know we’re getting yards because of how well we’re doing so we just have to keep up what we’re doing,” Stetts said. “We have a lot of weapons and that is a big thing. The defense doesn’t know who to go to, so that helps a lot.”

So does the way Jersey Shore conditions itself. The only thing which often slows the no-huddle is the referees spotting the ball. At practice there is no stopping and Jersey Shore runs even more plays than it did against Lewisburg. All that work has paid dividends throughout a dominant nine-year run and it did so again Saturday. Despite the humidity and heat, Jersey Shore grew stronger as the game progressed and outgained Lewisburg, 289-11 over the last two quarters.

The pace and the ferocity Jersey Shore brought eventually slowed down Lewisburg, but the Dragons (0-3) looked capable of pulling off an upset throughout the first half. They pulled within 7-6 in the first quarter when Wade Young found Owen Ordonez over the middle and watched his tight end make a brilliant leaping catch before breaking free for a 68-yard touchdown. Ordonez and Michael Casale then forced an intentional grounding in the end zone for a safety as Lewisburg cut Jersey Shoreás second-quarter lead to 10-8.

The Dragons were driving for a potential go-ahead score late in the second quarter but Griffin ended that threat with an interception and Breck Miller’s 20-yard field goal, his second, made it 13-8 at halftime. Ordonez, an all-state defensive end, was a defensive menace as well and had 2 1/2 sacks to go along with 12 tackles, including four for loss.

“Coach (Eric) Wicks is going to do great here at Lewisburg. He stands for all the right things. He’s a positive guy and you see so many good things happening in their games on film and you saw it in the first half,” Jersey Shore coach Tom Gravish said. “We challenged our kids at halftime to rise to the occasion. We told them to play hard for 48 minutes and things will work out.”

The offense and defense fed off each other throughout the second half as Jersey Shore squeezed all the juice from Lewisburg’s offense. The Bulldogs relentlessly pursued Young and had five sacks with the constant pressures leading to three interceptions. They also eliminated the running game, not letting any ball carrier gain more than six yards. Take away the Ordonez touchdown and Jersey Shore allowed 40 yards on 40 plays.

The Bulldogs also held Lewisburg to one yard or less on 16 of 35 plays, not counting incompletions, as they brilliantly played team defense. Griffin, Brady Jordan and Dathan Tyson intercepted passes, Packer recovered a fumble and Luke Springman collected 1 1/2 sacks. Jersey Shore won its second game at Harold Bolig Field in three weeks and has not allowed a second-half point in either contest, rallying past Selinsgrove in Week 2 before taking over after halftime Saturday.

“We were just giving it our all on every play,” Palski said. “We don’t leave anything on the field.”

“Going into half it didn’t feel like the score was how the game was going,” Packer said. “We just had to keep playing and keep hammering that rock until it crumbles.”

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