Bulldogs turn the page on losing

A few months ago, the Hollywood producers would haved tossed out this script.

America loves a good underdog story. So do Hollywood and storytellers everywhere. But the 2013 Jersey Shore football story seemed too far-fetched. Not even Hollywood could get people to suspend disbelief with this one.

Jersey Shore, a program that had won three combined games the previous four seasons and that went winless last year rises from the ashes to win a District 4 Class AAA championship? Come on. There is no way that could happen.

Believe it.

Jersey Shore has written its own script and has made what once seemed like such a far-fetched dream become reality. The past is dead and losing is over.

Jersey Shore is District 4 Class AAA’s best team. Jersey Shore is the district champion. Young Jersey Shore kids usually go to bed hearing stories about Cinderella and Snow White among others. Soon they might go to bed dreaming of being the next Utoa Agae-Naipo, Jordan Tawney or any of these resilient Bulldogs.

“It’s unreal. It’s unbelievable. Coming so far from where we were at before and now achieving the goals we have is absolutely unbelievable,” said two-way starter Troy Rowan after catching the game-winning touchdown pass in Friday’s 20-16 championship win over Selinsgrove. “It’s right out of a book.”

Many thought this book would have to be fiction. That belief was reinforced after a four-game losing streak dropped the Bulldogs to 2-6.

When everyone doubted them, though, the Bulldogs hung together. Greatness was there for the taking if they believed, worked hard and stayed united. Four weeks later, they not only have achieved greatness, but also school immortality. Jersey Shore captured its first district title since 1997, dethroned the defending champion, a perennial power, and has sent a sports passionate community into a frenzy.

Fire trucks and police cars escorted Jersey Shore’s team bus as players and coaches returned from Selinsgrove late Friday night. Many of those who greeted the returning heroes also were there for the game hours earlier, turning their section into a sea of Orange and Black. Nobody wanted to miss one of the greatest stories in Jersey Shore history unfolding.

“There’s so much more school spirit right now. The past couple years it was sad. In the past people would complain about us having pep rallies but now the school spirit is phenomenal,” senior linebacker Cody Bradley said. “It’s so gratifying to see that, especially as a senior. Everybody wants to watch us and support us now. It’s totally flipped around.”

Everything is reversed this year. The Bulldogs have gone from worst to first. They have won four straight, beating all three district tournament teams during that span while also sandwiching in their first win over archrival Central Mountain since 2006. Jersey Shore also defeated Shikellamy and Selinsgrove teams in the playoffs that had beaten them during the regular season.

The way Jersey Shore won this district title seemed fitting. To achieve greatness, it had to go through two teams that had handed it so many defeats in the past. Instead of thinking about the past, instead of thinking about what had been, the Bulldogs thought about what could be. They overcame a 14-point halftime deficit to beat top-seeded Shikellamy, 24-14 in the semifinals before scoring in the final minutes to edge No. 2 Selinsgrove in Friday’s instant classic.

So often in the past, Jersey Shore crumbled when behind. So many other times it came close to winning, but could not clear the hurdle. This team has changed everything. This team has ushered in a new era, a new Jersey Shore. Nothing fazes this team, not deficits, not injuries, not opponents. Whatever it takes, the Bulldogs believe it can be done. Because of that they have made what once seemed impossible, possible. It might seem like a dream, but this is all real.

The championship banner that Jersey Shore will soon hang will say “District 4 champions.” The words tell only so much. They do not reveal everything it took to make this fairy tale come to life. Coach Tom Gravish and his staff set the wheels in motion, seven dedicated senior leaders pulled the team close and every player bought in. Jersey Shore became not just a team, but a family. This is a family with an unbreakable bond and now these players and coaches will walk together forever.

Jersey Shore has scored a victory for underdogs everywhere. To all those that say something cannot be done, Jersey Shore proved them wrong. That is why fans jammed into Thompson Street Stadium late Friday. One of the best stories in the town’s history just produced its finest chapter yet. Again, everybody wanted to be there to say thanks. Fans who wanted this for so long had to be there to witness it.

The future is unwritten, but the 2013 Bulldogs have shown all Jersey Shore teams what is possible.

“Coming a year after we didn’t win at all and when we had three wins in four years, it shows other athletes that it doesn’t matter how far down you are or what your record is,” Agae-Naipo said. “As long as you stick together and play hard and believe, anything can be accomplished. We have proven it.”

Hollywood, you have a call on Line 1.

-Masse may be reached at