Bulldogs headed to Class AAAA final

Hunter Frantz forces a fumble for Jersey Shore Friday night vs. Athens.

JERSEY SHORE — It was Jersey Shore’s offense with the lion’s share of its points on Friday night, but it was the Bulldogs’ defense who bullied the Wildcats and shined.

In a seasonably chilly night, Jersey Shore defeated Athens 31-7 to advance to the District 4 class AAAA championship. Jersey Shore will host Selinsgrove on Friday night in a rematch from a regulars-season loss.

“Our guys came out early like we wanted them to and we jumped out to a 21-0 lead,”  said Bulldogs head coach Tom Gravish. “And our defense played outstanding against a very talented group of players on that Athens team.”

Receiver Todd  Sanford ended the game with three catches and is now the Bulldogs’ all-time single-season reception leader with 57 grabs on the year.

After Jersey Shore’s opening drive stalled and the offense was forced to punt, the Bulldogs immediately regained possession of the football after the Wildcat’s returner muffed the ensuing kick. Two plays later, Elijah Shemory connected with Hunter Frantz in the end zone for a 15-yard score with 10:08 remaining in the first quarter.

Frantz’ score was the beginning of 21-0 run by Jersey Shore.

Facing a fourth-and-10 in its next possession on the Wildcats’ 16-yard line, Jersey Shore elected to play for the touchdown instead of the field goal, and the gutsy call worked out. Shemory connected with Kevin Titus on a comeback route who would spin an Athens defender and take the ball in for a 16-yard score.

After a Jarett Guthrie 1-yard touchdown run to give the Bulldogs a 21-0 lead, Jersey Shore nearly entered the intermission with a shutout. But with 10 seconds remaining in the second quarter, Athens’ Kaden Rude picked off a Bulldogs pass and returned 90-yards for a touchdown.

“We hit tough break there right before half,” said Gravish.  “We threw the ball down there, and we had two guys going in motion and threw an interception. I think our guys thought the play was over because of the flag and they ended up with a touchdown. We weren’t real pleased with that.”

In the second half the consistency of the Bulldogs defense was present, as they continued to smother the Wildcats’ offense all night.

“We had interceptions, turnovers, quarterback sacks and hits in the backfield,” said Gravish.  “What I thought was outstanding was how we limited the amount of yards they had running the football. Athens had a lot of rushing yards this year.”

Jersey Shore limited Athens’ potent offense to just 43 rushing yards in the game. A non-existent rushing attack forced Athens to rely more on its passing game, and the Bulldogs were able to capitalize off this and ended the game with three interceptions.

With 7:43 remaining, Hunter Frantz picked off an Athens pass and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown. The pick gave Jersey Shore a 28-7 lead and derailed Athens’ hope for a comeback.

After the game Tom Gravish was quick to compliment Frantz, who finished the game with a touchdown on each side of the ball.

“He works hard and he’s a kid who aspires to make big plays,” said Gravish. ” He had a great read on the interception return.”

Despite the beat down, Gravish knows his team will need to iron out the kinks and perform better in order to win a district championship next week.

“Anytime you get a 31-7 win you take it, but we know we have to get better next week,” he said.