14-point halftime lead lifts Seals

SELINSGROVE — Derek Hicks was ready to run the ball. With a freshman quarterback backed up inside his own 30 and less than 90 seconds on the first-half clock, the Selinsgrove head coach was ready to take a seven-point lead into halftime.

Then he heard quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Derek Pope in his headset ask for a pass or two just to see how Dan Shoch handled the situation. Two completions and a pass interference call later and the Seals were over midfield.

Shoch didn’t thrown an incompletion on that drive, finishing it with a 14-yard scoring strike to Josh Nylund. The 14-point lead at the half turned out to be the springboard to a 31-10 win over Jersey Shore on Friday night at Harold L. Bolig field.

Shoch was 7 for 7 on that half-ending touchdown drive, covering all 76 yards through the air.

“I actually said in the headset as he’s driving down the field that I think the kid is growing up before our eyes right here,” Hicks said. “It was a great two-minute drill.”

A week after being conservative with his freshman quarterback in a 10-point loss to Lewisburg, Hicks and Pope took the reigns off Shoch last night. Playing with a maturity and an efficiency beyond his years, Shoch completed 23 of 30 passes for 292 yards and three touchdowns.

His 14-yard scoring strike to Nylund before the half finished off the most impressive throws of his night. But it was merely a microcosm of how the Seals defeated Jersey Shore.

With the Bulldogs defensively line making Selinsgrove’s run game all but moot, the game was put on Shoch’s shoulders. He continually hit his receivers in stride. The ball was out of his hand as his receivers made their breaks. And he wasn’t afraid to fit the football into tight windows when he needed to.

In all, it spelled a second consecutive loss to start the season for Jersey Shore, which has scored just 20 points combined in its two losses.

“We weren’t quite the same team going into the half and Selinsgrove gained some confidence,” Jersey Shore coach Tom Gravish said. “They did a nice job with their sprint-out game. They’re very good at running down-and-distance plays and getting to the sticks. And we made a few less defensive plays than we would have liked.”

Jersey Shore had finally gotten on the scoreboard with a 38-yard Cameron Griffin field goal with under two minutes to go in the first half when it handed the ball back to Shoch and the Seals’ offense with just 1 minute, 24 seconds left in the half. Shoch hit Nylund for a five-yard gain on the first play. Then a throw to an open post pattern was broken up by a pass interference call.

When Shoch hit Brett Foor for his only reception to move across the 50, Selinsgrove suddenly went from let’s see what happens to let’s try to score. Ben Swineford (eight catches, 101 yards, TD) caught an 11-yard pass and got out of bounds. Christian Kantz got out of bounds after a seven-yard catch, as did Swineford after a six-yard catch.

Not even a holding penalty could knock Shoch out of rhythm. He found Swineford on a 21-yard completion to set up the touchdown to Nylund. And give credit to Nylund as he wrestled with a defender for the ball as he fell to the ground and then took a vicious hit from Hunter O’Connor and still hung on to the ball.

The 17-7 lead left Selinsgrove feeling energized and Jersey Shore feeling deflated.

“Got to give the kid credit, he’s been making those plays for a while and he made a heck of a catch,” Gravish said. “They did a nice job of protecting him on that last drive and that was probably a big factor in the outcome of the game right there.”

“For a young kid to execute a drill like that was just amazing,” Hicks said. “With this defensive front, if you just try to run it on them, you’re not going anywhere offensively. They’re too good to just try and lean on them and run all night long. We were kind of going to live or die with a freshman quarterback. And he had a heck of a game.”