Bulldogs pull off upset at home

JERSEY SHORE–As the end zone approached, Koby Peacock’s calves cramped up and moving became difficult.

But no one could tell Jersey Shore’s wide receiver was experiencing such pain. He sprinted down the right sideline, tip-toed the final seven yards and scored the game-winning, 31-yard touchdown. David Tomb snuffed out Montoursville’s ensuing series and Cameron Griffin kicked a game-clinching 28-yard field goal three minutes later. Jersey Shore stared pain right in the eye and won Friday at Thompson Street Stadium.

Peacock played the game of his life, catching four Tanner Lorson touchdown passes and Jersey Shore rallied from a four-point halftime deficit to defeat Montoursville, 30-20. The Bulldogs (1-2) won their first game, handed Montoursville (2-1) its first loss and gave injured teammate Caleb Leone, who is battling a serious brain injury, quite a tribute. This performance symbolized what has made Jersey Shore so good since 2013. Mix talent with excellent coaching and ferocious Bulldog-tenacity and one has a team that so often wins these hard-fought battles.

“You can teach the basics, you can teach anything you want, but it comes down to the will to win,” Tomb said. “You can’t teach that and everybody showed the will to win tonight.”

“We came out with the mentality that we were going to be resilient and that’s what we were,” Peacock said. “We did make a statement and that was our mentality. I even said before the game we have to go out and make a statement because the past two games we haven’t played like who we are and we came out and played like who we are tonight.”

Montoursville-Jersey Shore has become one of the district’s best rivalries and games like Friday’s are why. This was the sixth straight time the winner has made a second-half comeback and the second consecutive season Jersey Shore rallied after trailing at halftime. Hunter Shearer threw for a career-high 232 yards and twice found Jaxon Dalena for first-quarter touchdowns, but the Bulldogs surrendered only two field goals over the final three quarters, holding Montoursville to six points on three trips inside the 10-yard line.

Jersey Shore trailed 17-13 at halftime, but needed just two second-half plays to regain the lead. Peacock turned a 10-yard pass into a 75-yard touchdown down the right sideline, bouncing off a defender and outrunning two defensive backs as Jersey Shore went up 20-17. Peacock was unstoppable and scored all four Jersey Shore touchdowns, the last three coming after he turned medium-range passes into game-changing plays.

Peacock’s 2-yard touchdown catch tied the game 7-7 and he offered a preview of things to come on the next series when he caught a wide receiver screen on a 3rd-and-23, slipped past a would-be tackler and broke free for a 59-yard score that put the Bulldogs up, 13-7. His final score broke a 20-20 tie and was a near duplicate of his third-quarter score. Peacock caught a 7-yard Lorson pass, fought off two Warriors and worked his way into the end zone when his calves so badly wanted him to stop. Lorson threw for a career-high 205 yards and that final touchdown put Jersey Shore ahead, 27-20 with 4 minutes, 43 seconds remaining.

“I just did everything I could and fought with everything I had to get into the end zone on the last touchdown,” Peacock said. “You always are ready to take the big hit once the ball hits your hands. A couple of those touchdowns I can’t thank the blockers enough for getting down field and giving me some lanes to make some moves on some guys and get into the end zone.”

“We try to tell him we want yards after the catch and he surely got them,” Jersey Shore coach Tom Gravish said. “He’s strong. He’s stronger than people think. He’s got a strong upper body, strong legs and his low center of gravity makes him hard to tackle.”

Tomb is equally hard keeping away from the ball. The all-state nose tackle sparked a swarming defensive performance throughout the second half and was at his best on Montoursville’s next series when Montoursville turned the ball over on downs at its own 39-yard line. Tomb twice hurried Shearer on the final two plays and led a cavalry of Bulldogs into the backfield, forcing a hurried incompletion on fourth down. Tomb’s brother Kyle ran over a defender for a 31-yard run two plays later and Griffin clinched the victory with his 28-yard field goal.

Had it not been for some tremendous stops inside the 5-yard line, Jersey Shore likely would not have been in such position late in the game. Montoursville had a 2nd-and-goal from the 1-yard line in the second quarter but was held to a 21-yard Ian Plankehorn 21-yard field goal. Montoursville nearly took a late third-quarter lead and had a 2nd-and-goal at the 2, but Tomb dropped Dylan Moll for no yards on the next play and Jersey Shore forced a five-yard loss a play later as Montoursville settled for Planekhorn’s game-tying 24-yard field goal.

“(Defensive coordinator Alex) Jackson says never give up and we never gave up,” Tomb said. “We stopped them near the end zone three times and that shows we’re not a team that gives up. We keep pushing and pushing.”

So does Montoursville.

The Warriors do have several starters back from last year, but few had previously played in a game as ferociously fought as this one in hot conditions. Dalena (7 catches, 145 yards) scored on touchdown catches of 44 and 25 yards, Zac Caseman valiantly played through a stomach bug and Cameron Wood shined defensively, recording two sacks, making three tackles for loss and recovering a fourth-quarter fumble at the 1-yard line.

“We have to be able to take the positives from this game and improve on what our deficiencies are and move forward,” Montoursville coach J.C. Keefer said. “It was a challenge for us and I’m proud of our kids because they fought and we’re going to be in more games like this. We went through a lot of adversity tonight and really gutted it out. We’ll learn from it.”

Montoursville stuffed Jersey Shore’s running game during the first half, but the Bulldogs took some pressure off the passing game in the second half. Offensive linemen Tomb, Matt Fausey, Seth Webb, Hunter O’Connor and Anthony Darby started taking control up front Dawson Sechrist and Josh Malicky provided some good runs that took Jersey Shore to the 1-yard line midway through the fourth quarter. Wood recovered a fumble a play later, but Jersey Shore forced a 3-and-out and Peacock put Jersey Shore ahead two plays later, putting an exclamation point on a game he and his teammates will never forget.

“It was smash-mouth football. It was really tough but both teams worked through it,” Peacock said. “It was a great game to be playing in and I’m sure it was a great game to watch.”

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