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Jersey Shore stays perfect by beating Danville

JERSEY SHORE — In a slugfest between defending District 4 champions Danville (Class AAA) and Jersey Shore (Class AAAA), the first meeting between the two since 2013 on Friday night had a little bit of everything.

Four lead changes, back-to-back fumble recoveries, back-to-back interceptions, different quarterbacks getting into the mix and no shortage of momentum swings, Thompson Street Stadium was rocking.

Though the Ironmen brought the Bulldogs down to Earth for much of the game, Jersey Shore did it again. The undefeated Bulldogs pulled away in the second half, 42-21.

“There was a lot of motivation going into this game, knowing they won the district championship last year,” junior running back Haydn Packer said. “We knew it was going to be a big game, and I think we rose to the occasion.”

Packer scored three touchdowns to go the distance for Jersey Shore (8-0). After initially tying the game with a 1-yard punch-in with 7:05 left before the half, Packer once again found himself with a handoff on first-and-goal with the game knotted at 21 five and a half minutes later.

In a mirror effort, the Bulldogs ran the same play and Packer gave Jersey Shore a permanent lead right before the break. Packer ran in his first touchdown on the opening drive from six yards out.

The Bulldogs had to fight for it, though. Danville (5-3) controlled the pace of play for much of the first half, not allowing Jersey Shore to get into its signature no huddle offense as quickly as it typically does.

“They took a lot of time. They were getting a lot of first downs, tons of first downs on 3rd and long,” Bulldogs coach Tom Gravish said. “…Hats off to their quarterback and wide receivers for making the plays that they did.”

Gravish told his team last week heading into the Milton game that every contest from there on out had a playoff atmosphere to it, and against a relentless Ironmen squad, he was on the money.

“If we don’t play good football, this team could run us right out of our own stadium,” Gravish said. “…This is a state-caliber football team.”

Freshman quarterback Madden Patrick threw a dime to Carson Persing for a 58-yard go-ahead run to the house on Danville’s fourth possession, which lasted just two plays.

Junior running back Ty Stauffer — on the first play of another drive in the second quarter — took a swing pass 84 yards to the playdirt in immediate response to a 26-yard keeper from Brady Jordan for a touchdown.

It was, in every definition of the word, a shootout. But Jordan wasn’t done making big runs. The junior broke out on a 70-yard dash and was stopped at Danville’s 1-yard line, setting up Packer’s next touchdown. Jordan rushed 16 times for 206 yards.

“There were some pretty big holes on those runs,” Jordan said. “(The offensive line) did a great job all night long, I love having them up there.”

Jordan completed seven of his 17 passes for 137 yards through the air.

Once Dathon Tyson and Cameron Kiersch traded picks, Jordan came up with a fumble recovery to stop the Ironmen at Jersey Shore’s 1-yard line. Persing was shaken up on the play and came out of the game for a while. Injury timeouts continued to pile up on both sides, but losing Persing was a blow for Danville.

A human Swiss Army knife, Persing made eight receptions for 133 yards and filled in at quarterback for a few series when Patrick got banged up.

“He’s as good a receiver we’ve seen in a long time,” Gravish said on Persing. “We’re facing some good ones next week at Bald Eagle Area, but this Persing, he’s a fabulous wideout.”

Losing Persing for a few drives wasn’t the only issue at hand for Danville.

“We saw they were getting tired. We’re conditioned to play all four quarters of football and we used that to our advantage when they were gassing out,” Jordan said.

The Bulldogs quickly utilized their no huddle offense late in the third quarter. Like being strapped into a Formula 1 race car, Jersey Shore flew down the field making big plays, small gains, anything they wanted to.

After a five-play opening drive that ended in an 9-yard scamper to the end zone for Jordan via a fake handoff to Packer, the Bulldogs ripped the pace of play out of the hands of the Ironmen, heading downfield on a 12-play, 97-yard march that ended in a 9-yard dart from Jordan to Cayden Hess in the right corner of the end zone.

“In the second half, we knew that that’s our time to shine,” Packer said. “Our no huddle offense just goes so hard. We knew going into it they were tired. We knew with our offensive line, how we’ve conditioned all week, plays were just going to start clicking. Everyone was working in unison and it’s great to see.”

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