Gravish earns nod as area’s top coach

Mr. Fix-It did it again.

When Jersey Shore hired Tom Gravish during the 2012 offseason, it received a man who had turned around all three high school programs he inherited. And someone with that kind of resume was just what this struggling program needed.

Jersey Shore was mired in a stretch of three straight one-win seasons. Improvement was not immediate either, as the Bulldogs went 0-10 in Gravish’s first season.

But in 2013, Gravish added yet another program to his list of impressive make-overs. And this reclamation project was his most impressive yet.

Gravish helped turn Jersey Shore from a laughingstock that had won three games the previous four seasons into a champion. The Bulldogs rallied from a 2-6 start, won their next four games, beat the district’s top two seeds and captured their first District 4 Class AAA championship since 1997.

Jersey Shore’s storybook turnaround has earned Gravish the 2013 Sun-Gazette Coach of the Year Award.

Despite going winless last year, Jersey Shore appeared on the right track. The Bulldogs were one of the district’s youngest teams in 2012 but were bursting with potential. Gravish tapped into that, motivated one of the best senior classes in program history and soon the Bulldogs were working harder than they had in years while pulling closer together.

By Week 2, Jersey Shore had snapped a 13-game losing streak. By Week 4, the Bulldogs overcame a late fourth-quarter deficit and defeated explosive Bloomsburg, 21-14 in overtime. Nothing came easy, though, and Jersey Shore lost its next four teams. When other coaches might have lost their teams, Gravish continued motivating them and convincing them they could achieve greatness.

A week later, they started doing just that. Jersey Shore used a last-minute 14-play, 88-yard drive to stun Milton, 42-39. A week later, Jersey Shore beat archrival Central Mountain for the first time since 2006. Two road comeback wins followed at top-seeded Shikellamy and defending champion Selinsgrove as the Bulldogs reached District 4 Class AAA’s summit in a year just about everyone outside their locker room thought it impossible.

The Bulldogs improved in just about every offensive and defensive category. They also produced their first 1,000-yard rusher (Utoa Agae-Naipo) of the 21st century and a 1,000-yard passer (Logan English).

Gravish surrounded himself with an impressive staff and collectively, they changed the program’s culture while convincing future Bulldogs that anything is possible. The second-year coach has now led resurgences at East Juniata, Bellefonte and Williamsport.

When times are tough, Mr. Fix-It is the right man for the job.