Bellefonte holds off Bulldogs in opener
MILL HALL — Bellefonte kicker Chris Persiko began pacing down the sideline in the game’s finals seconds. The senior just wanted to ease his nerves and erase any self doubt before attempting the game-winning field goal. By the time he entered the field, he knew it was his moment.
“Honestly, there was nothing going on in my mind,” Persiko said. “I just took those steps like it was any routine kick. I took my three steps, two to the side and bombed it through.”
“I heard the fans before I even knew it went in. It was great.”
Persiko drilled the game-winning 26-yard field with no time left on the clock to propel Bellefonte to a 17-14 win over Jersey Shore in its season opener.
“Starting off the year with a win is huge,” Bellefonte coach Shanon Manning said. “We have an extremely, extremely young team. We overcame six turnovers, and just kept battling.”
Bellefonte transfer quarterback Kyle Myers bounced back after a rough first half. He fumbled four times and was replaced by Logan Houser in the third quarter. Myers was reinserted in the fourth quarter for Bellefonte’s game-winning nine-play 46-yard drive with 3:16 remaining.
“You go see any great quarterback, or great running back, and they have had games like that in their career.” Manning said of Myers. “That doesn’t define anybody.”
Jersey Shore’s inability to cash in on Bellefonte’s mistakes hampered its offense. The Bulldog defense forced six turnovers, but the offense mustered just one score off a turnover – a three-yard touchdown by Kyle Tomb to put JS ahead, 7-0, with 7:49 remaining in the first quarter.
“Yeah, there was a couple of missed opportunities we didn’t capitalize on,” JS coach Tom Gravish said. “And Caleb Rockey from Bellefonte played an exceptional game on defense. He’s as good as advertised. He played an unbelievable game.”
Caleb Rockey and the Red Raider defense held running back Kyle Tomb in check. Tomb carried the ball 23 times for just 63 yards and one touchdown. Quarterback Tanner Lorson completed just nine passes for 84 yards.
“The defense just kept battling and battling,” Bellefonte coach Shanon Manning said. “Caleb Rockey did a really nice job and we saw some really nice things out of these guys.”
Bellefonte running back CJ Funk ran for 110 yards and two touchdowns. In the second quarter, he took a handoff up the middle, cut to left and dashed down the sideline for a 79-yard touchdown run. The score increased Bellefonte’s lead, 14-7, with 9:04 remaining in the half.
“He was outstanding,” Manning said of Funk. “He really battled some cramping issues and I’m proud of him.”
Bellefonte coughed up the lead with 7:49 left in the game after Tanner Lorson ran scrambled for a two-yard touchdown run on fourth and goal from the two yard line, to tie the game, 14-14.
In Bellefonte’s final drive, they pounded the ball down up the middle. The ground game carried Bellefone, setting up Chris Persiko’s game-winning 26-yard field goal.
“I’m honestly still in shock,” Persiko said. “I can’t even describe it. It’s one of the greatest feelings.”
Jersey Shore coach Tom Gravish remained optimistic after the loss. There’s still nine games renaming on the schedule-and one defeat doesn’t derail the season.
“It was a hard fought game against Bellefonte,” Gravish said. “We knew they would be good.”