Bulldogs bested to start

DAVE KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette Correspondent Dominic Williams of Jersey Shore is taken down by C.J. Funk of Bellefonte in the first half of play Friday evening at Jersey Shore High School.

JERSEY SHORE– Friday night was not the start Jersey Shore was hoping for when the returning District 4 AAAA champions opened the season against Bellefonte.

A game that featured a couple of the area’s hard-nosed teams sure was on display in a packed Thompson Street Stadium. Neither team could find an offensive rhythm early, and it especially didn’t help when both defenses flew to the ball on every play.

“We told our kids they were gonna’ be tough, it was a tough game on all sides of the ball all game.” Jersey Shore coach Tom Gravish said.

Gravish and the Bulldogs were seemingly disappointed with the result of a 17-13 loss, when they held the upper hand for three of the four quarters. Jersey Shore was looking to start the season by building on what it accomplished in a district champion season last year, but saw a late fumble derail its course and have to look for a first victory next week at Mifflinburg.

Senior quarterback Elijah Shemory and his offense were on the field for just one play when Shemory threw his first pass for an interception trying to fit the ball in a tight window in the middle of the defense.

Again not the start Shore wanted.

Shemory was picked up by his defense getting a quick turnover on downs including David Tomb on a fourth and one. The Bulldogs made up for the first possession interception when Shemory unloaded a 50-yard bomb to fellow senior Hunter Frantz that was bound to happen between the gunslinger and speedy receiver half way through the first quarter.

Field position and poise was a major factor for both teams throughout. Bellefonte found field position in its favor with the bulk of posessions starting in Shore territory, and the Bulldogs found themselves deep on their side of the field needing long drives to get past midfield.

“Our field position was poor all the way throughout the game,” Gravish said. “They (Bellefonte) had a few punt returns to set them up in good position.”

Although Bellefonte had better field position, Jersey Shore’s defense was able to get through the Red Raiders’ line for big tackles when needed. Shore linebackers, Dominic Williams and Hunter O’Conner had constant presence in the backfield getting to Nick Paloskey and Dexter Gallishaw at ease in the first half. Only surrendering a 15 yard field goal which closed out the first quarter.

In the second half Paloskey and Gallishaw found a rhythm running the ball. Bellefonte’s offense came out in the fourth quarter with a 55 yard reverse to the wide side of the field that took Jersey Shore completely off-guard and closed the score to within three and momentum starting to rise in a game that needed a key play to fall in place for either team. Two series later Jersey Shore was looking to conserve a lead and run the clock, Kyle Tomb took a handoff when a Red Raider came barreling in to jar the ball loose.

“Hats off to Paloskey, he kept his composure when we got some hits on him, and Gallishaw with that run with a boat load of Bulldogs.” Gravish said.

That play swung all momentum into Bellefonte’s favor for the rest of the game. Paloskey and the offense took the next snap at the 25 yard line where Dallishaw took a handoff and carried all 21 players to the one yard line which set up a Paloskey QB sneak or the go-ahead touchdown just over 4 minutes in the game.

Jersey Shore found itself battling back, but could not overcome poor field position. Shemory and the Bulldog offense found their form from last year when they quickly drove down the field for a last second score, but was met by two key sacks from Stephen Cutches on third and fourth down with the ball inside Bellefonte’s 30 yard line.

“We needed to be more consistent tonight.” Gravish said, “This is gonna sting for a while, definitely not the way we wanted to start. We will learn from it and get back to the drawing board for Mifflinburg next week.”