Second-half rally brings Jersey Shore’s third straight win
By CHRIS MASSE
JERSEY SHORE — John Hamm walked toward midfield, a large rope draped upon his right shoulder. Minutes after Jersey Shore again made a second-half comeback, the rope seemed as popular as any player or coach.
Once again, the Bulldogs never let go and kept pulling that rope until victory was theirs.
Jersey Shore overcame a rough first half, a third-quarter deficit, injuries and some bad luck Monday night at Thompson Street Stadium and dominated the second half while beating Bald Eagle Area, 28-10. The Bulldogs (6-3) won their third straight and overcame a second-half deficit for a fourth time. They also moved to No. 2 in the District 4 Class AAAA standings and outscored BEA, 20-0 in the second half.
“We had about 20 balls bounce in the wrong direction in the first half. I never saw a game where so many balls bounced the other way and our kids were very resilient to stick together,” Jersey Shore coach Tom Gravish said. “(Two-way starter) Max Mason challenged the kids at halftime. Our theme is hold onto that rope, pull it in the same direction, never let go and keep pulling it hard as heck.”
Jersey Shore did just that. The relentless Bulldog defense allowed just three points over the game’s final 58 minutes, intercepted five passes and gave the offense a chance to rally. Quarterback Elijah Shemory threw for 166 yards and three touchdowns, including two in the second half, while sophomore running back Kyle Tomb ran like a wrecking ball, gaining 113 yards and scoring the game-clinching touchdown in his first varsity start.
“At halftime we were a little down, but once we came back out we got right going again and we knew we had them,” said linebacker Hunter O’Connor, who was all over the field, making a team-high 11 tackles, most near or behind the line of scrimmage. “We never give up. No matter what, we keep fighting.”
Austin Young went untouched for a 64-yard touchdown run three plays into the game, giving BEA an immediate 7-0 lead. Jersey Shore’s defense basically put up a wall from there, allowing just 124 yards on BEA’s final 51 plays. The Eagles only managed three points over the game’s last 38 minutes and that controversial field goal came after they went three-and-out following a Jersey Shore fumble at the Bulldog 14-yard line.
That 32-yard field goal attempt was first blocked by David Tomb. Instead of the Bulldogs regaining possession, the referees said because they blew an inadvertent whistle well after the block was made, that the down must be replayed. Blake Roberts took advantage of the gift and his field goal gave BEA a 10-8 halftime lead. But Jersey Shore did not crack.
“Some of the seniors got us pumped up and got us back into the game and that really helped us,” said O’Connor who also was part of an offensive line that performed well. “We knew we could shut them down. We had to stop the run, be a little more strict on our jobs and get to the holes we’re supposed to.”
Jersey Shore shut down the run, holding Young to 58 yards, despite his 64-yard touchdown. That forced BEA to rely on the pass and Jersey Shore intercepted passes on the Eagles’ last four possessions. Austin Breon and Dominic Williams nearly returned interceptions for touchdowns and Christian Tawney, Kevin Titus and Hunter Frantz had second-half interceptions, sparking a defense that allowed no points on four BEA trips inside the 40.
The offense moved the ball throughout the game but started finishing drives in the second half. Shemory put Jersey Shore ahead to stay in the third quarter, hitting Titus with a 4-yard touchdown pass. He then found Frantz (4 catches, 75 yards) for a 12-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-long with a 12-yard touchdown that put Jersey Shore ahead, 21-10 with 4:12 remaining.
“Our offensive line sucked it up when it hard to get some key runs and make a couple key pass plays,” Gravish said. “We should get some players back next week and that should help, too.”
Williams made it four straight Jersey Shore interceptions on BEA’s series before Tomb put an exclamation on both the win and his breakout performance, breaking loose for a 16-yard touchdown. Tomb played fullback last week and ran for 83 yards. He moved to tailback last night and ran with authority, consistently moving the pile and adding yards after the carry.
“He looked good for his first time starting back there,” O’Connor said. “He really shined tonight. He’s a big reason we won.”
Tyler Smith delivered well on both sides of the ball and put Jersey Shore on the board in the first quarter, tackling Young in the end zone for a safety. A quarter later, Smith caught a 4-yard touchdown pass and gave Jersey Shore its first lead, 8-7.