SUNBURY - Big plays can either be your friend or your enemy. Friday night at Shikellamy Stadium, the big plays weren't very friendly to Jersey Shore.
The Braves, riding the highs of five plays of 35 yards or more, defeated the Bulldogs by the final of 29-19 in a HAC-I contest.
"Shik made the plays," said Shore head coach Tom Gravish. "We made a couple, but they made more. High school football games usually come down to five or six plays and they made them. I don't know how many plays they had over 30 yards, but that was the difference in the game."
The Braves scored on their first possession of the game on a 39-yard run by Alex Bruner. Seth Burk's extra point made it 7-0 Braves less than four minutes into the game.
After the two teams exchanged several punts, the Bulldogs got to within a point of the Braves when they manufactured a 10-play, 75-yard march, capped by a 17-yard to paydirt by Utoa Agae-Naipo. However, the kick for the extra point was no good, and with 10:48 left in the second period, Shore still trailed by a single point at 7-6 Braves.
Enter the second big play for the Braves.
Following the Agae-Naipo score, the Braves?(3-4) answered right back as it only took them three plays to go on top 13-6. Dwayne Pepper, who rushed 17 times for 123 yards, ripped off a 63-yard jaunt to the Shore 3 before he took it into the end zone on the next play for the touchdown.
The Bulldogs (2-5) got themselves even at 13-all with 1:46 left before halftime when quarterback Logan English hit Derek Leese with a 36-yard scoring pass. English's extra-point deadlocked the two teams at 13-all.
However, before the Shore fans could settle back into their seats, John Schaeffer took the ensuing kickoff and promptly ripped up the middle to take the kick to the house for a 65-yard kickoff return. Burk's extra point made it 20-13 Shikellamy at the break.
"Kickoff returns will help any team," said Gravish. "They blocked that well and the middle opened up for him. When we scored right before the half, I thought it could be a big emotional lift for us, but when they ran the kickoff back, that can be a double whammy because you are going from an emotional high to a low that might seem like you just fell off a cliff in Arizona."
Taking the second half kickoff on their own 33, the Braves put together a 10-play, 67-yard drive for a score to give themselves a little breathing room at 26-13.
Attempting to answer the Brave touchdown, Shore quarterback Logan English's pass was intercepted at the Shore 48.
Seven plays following the pick, the Shore defense stiffened to hold the Braves short of the sticks, but Burk was Johnny on the Spot as he drilled a 28-yard field goal to push the Shik lead to 29-13.
Following another interception of an English aerial and a pair of punts, the Bulldogs went 75 yards on just seven plays for the game's last score.
English hit Stephen Baier for 27 yards before he connected with Brody Smith for another 13. On the seventh play of the possession, Agae-Naipo scored his second TD of the game from nine yards out to end the scoring.