Preseason practices can be a drag at times, but Montoursville players and coaches always perk up when conducting the defense to offense drill. That is when the defensive players create a downfield convoy following an interception.
Friday night at Memorial Stadium, Montoursville the Warriors repeatedly ran that drill. And each time they did so to perfection.
Cameron Ott and Griffin Dunne returned three interceptions for first-half touchdowns against Jersey Shore as Montoursville's defense went offensive and paved the way for a 51-22 win. Dunne returned two picks for scores and Montoursville (2-1) defeated the Bulldogs for a 27th straight time.
Griffin Dunne (12) of Montoursville runs back one of two of his interception returns for touchdowns Friday night vs. Jersey Shore. Watching is Shore’s Jeff Dincher (9). View additional photos at cu.sungazette.com.
"That's a fun drill to do because it kind of creates that continuity and team thing where we're on defense but we're going the other way to score," Montoursville coach J.C. Keefer said. "It was neat to see that unfold."
The defense basically was Montoursville's only first-quarter offense. Ott and Dunne intercepted passes that ended promising Jersey Shore drives and put Montoursville ahead 13-0. The Warrior offense did not run its first play until 1:12 remained in the quarter and finished that quarter with two plays for seven yards.
Ott started the defensive scoring eruption when he stepped in front of a pass at the Montoursville 25-yard line. He broke out of traffic in the middle of the field, received some great blocks downfield and went 75 yards for the score.
One series later, Jersey Shore (0-3) drove to the Montoursville 26 before Dunn made his first big play. The junior cornerback read a roll-out well and jumped the route at the 30. He received a crushing block at the Jersey Shore 30 and went all way way for his first career interception return.
Following an Ethan Jones field goal and a Matt Krezmer 4-yard touchdown run, Dunne struck again. This time he caught a tipped pass and sprinted 55 yards for a touchdown that made it 29-0. Dunne was outstanding all night and also held Jersey Shore's top receiver, Jeff Dincher, without a catch.
"I was in a lucky spot (the second time) and got the tip and it opened up again and I took it in," Dunne said. "It was great. I was actually expecting somebody to be behind me but there wasn't."
"We've been putting him on the other team's best receiver and last week against Central we put him on who we thought was the best and he did a good job," Keefer said. "Dincher is a great player and we wanted to take him away and Griffin did a really good job with that."
Jersey Shore, possibly the district's youngest team in starting four freshmen and mostly underclassmen, did good things throughout the first half but the turnovers doomed it. That point was driven home following Dunne's second touchdown since Jersey Shore had a big yards advantage, but trailed 29-0.
Logan English hit Boone Costa with a 53-yard touchdown that made it 29-6 at halftime, but Clay Stoner (117 yards) scored twice in the third quarter as Montoursville went up 45-6 and put the game away. Utoah Agae-Naipo played a great game for Jersey Shore, running for 115 yards while showing outstanding explosion through the hole and being adept at breaking tackles.
"He brings a lot of passion to his performance," first-year Jersey Shore coach Tom Gravish said. "He's a good player on defense too. He really cares and I only look for him to get better."
The same could be said for the entire Jersey Shore team. The Bulldogs are young, but are loaded with promising building blocks. They also showed a lot of fight as Jordan Tawney threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes, one to Derek Leese and another to Costa. Jersey Shore actually outgained Montoursville, 279-234.
"It's just consistency," Gravish said. "Sometimes we try to make too much of a play and we always say that every play is not the last play of recess. You don't want to admit that you have to put sometimes but a punt is not the worst play that ever happened in football."
"I don't feel like this was what the score ended up being," Keefer said. "If it wasn't for those three interceptions early it would have been a dogfight for a while and we would have been exchanging haymakers."
Because it rarely had the ball in the first half, Montoursville's offense did not have much time to get into a rhythm. That changed in the second half, however, as linemen like Tommy Williams, Lucas Shaheen, Cody Chilcot, Ben Cerney and Brett Trimble took over, clearing the way for a 13-play, 80-yard drive that Stoner capped with his first touchdown.
That was the first time in six possessions that Montoursville started a drive in its own territory and it provided a taste of what it has to do with big games looming in the coming weeks.
"We wanted to improve a lot more in this game and I think we took a step forward," Dunne said. "If we can keep building on this we'll be pretty good."