Montoursville at Jersey Shore

Montoursville PPG–46.5, YPG–266.5; PPA–3.0, YPA–140

Montoursville facts: The Warriors already have matched last season’s win total when they were one of the district’s youngest teams. They experienced growing pains but those look like blessings now that the Warriors have so many starters back. Montoursville leads the area in defense, allowing just one touchdown in two games and blanking Hughesville, 42-0 last week. Montoursville-Jersey Shore has been one of the area’s most entertaining rivalries the last five seasons and Jersey Shore defeated Montoursville, 29-13 last season. That marked the fifth straight time in this series that the team trailing at halftime rallied to win. Montoursville has won four of its last five games going back to last season and has scored 69 first-half points in its first two contests. The offense has been efficient and Montoursville has done a nice job spreading the ball around. Five different players ran for touchdowns last week and Wyatt Nettling caught a touchdown. Quarterback Hunter Shearer topped 1,000 yards in his first season starting last fall and leads the area in passer rating, throwing for 203 yards and two touchdowns. Shearer threw for 161 yards and a touchdown against Jersey Shore last fall. Cole Ranck is emerging as a nice weapon and ran for 57 yards and a touchdown on eight carries against Hughesville. Montoursville has scored touchdowns in all three phases, including two on special teams. Seniors Joey Rogers and Connor Morse are having good seasons, combining for 3 1/2 sacks. Kickers Colin Gorini and Ian Plankenhorn also have been effective and the defense surrendered just 92 yards last week. Montoursville also has forced five turnovers with Logan Ott returning an interception for the team’s first touchdown of the season. The Warriors are No. 2 in the current District 4 Class AAA playoff standings which are using a new power rating formula. They trail only Lewisburg.

Montoursville player to watch–Logan Balouris: The junior linebacker emerged as a strong playmaker last season and helps anchor a stout defense. Balouris has been one of the team’s leading tacklers the past two years and also returned a punt 30 yards for a touchdown in the season-opening win against North Penn-Mansfield.

Jersey Shore PPG–12.0, YPG–244; PPA–24.0, YPA–311

Jersey Shore facts: The Bulldogs are 0-2 for the first time since 2012 and also are maybe as young as they have been collectively since that season. Jersey Shore opened its season against two defending district champions and the schedule gets no easier tonight. Still, the Bulldogs dropped a last-season heartbreaker against Bellefonte and were a few untimely bounces from being down just a touchdown at halftime against Selinsgrove. It would be a mistake to dismiss Jersey Shore as a District 4 Class AAAA title contender and this is a team that traditionally makes impressive strides as the season progresses. The defense traditionally is one of the area’s best and struggled against the past last week, but stifled the run. Jersey Shore surrendered just 60 yards on 38 carries and Josh Malicky intercepted a pass. Linebacker Hunter O’Connor is off to a tremendous start, making 43 tackles the first two weeks, including 32 solos. He has topped 20 tackles in each game. All-state nose guard David Tomb has been outstanding as well and three of his 13 tackles against Selinsgrove were for loss. Anthony Darby, Dawson Sechrist and Ryan Kershner had sacks for the Bulldogs in that game. The offense is a work in progress, but first-time starting quarterback Tanner Lorson has shown he can be a threat with his arm and legs. He threw for 128 yards and a touchdown last week as Anthony Shaffer caught his first varsity score and had four receptions. Koby Peacock was one of the area’s leading receivers last season and has a team-high seven receptions. Running back Kyle Tomb has been stymied through two weeks but is one of the area’s top players and ran for 1,662 yards last year. Tomb was outstanding against Montoursville, rushing for 150 yards and three touchdowns. Jersey Shore forced four turnovers in that win and outscored Montoursville, 17-0 in the second half. Kicker Cameron Griffin is tied for third in career area points with 149 and needs just 21 to become the all-time leader.

Jersey Shore player to watch–Dawson Sechrist: A strong two-way starter, Sechrist made his season debut last week and wasted little time making an impact. The junior linebacker made a career-high 12 tackles and 10 were solos. Sechrist added a sack and could play a big role offensively as the season goes on, providing good lead blocking and inside running.

Outlook: Forget the records here. Last year showed that they mean little in this rivalry. This will be a hard-fought, physical and entertaining game.