Shemory with big day in Lyco win
Elijah Shemory rolled to his left on a first-quarter third-down play looking for a receiver. His right-arm was ready to fire the football.
When Brock Zollicoffer sat in an open window, Shemory’s shoulders squared up to his target and his throw hit Zollicoffer in the chest as two defenders collapsed on him.
Three plays later, facing another third down, Shemory stood tall in the pocket waiting for Nick Costello to get to the top of his out route to make his cut toward the sideline. Before Costello had made the cut to his left, the ball had already left Shemory’s right hand. Costello hauled in the perfectly-placed throw and took two steps before stepping out of bounds.
If the freshman quarterback from Jersey Shore was gun shy following a four-interception debut over a week ago against Susquehanna, he surely didn’t show it in Saturday’s 33-19 win on the road at Widener. With steely nerves and proficient accuracy, Shemory guided Lycoming to one of the biggest wins in recent years for the Warriors.
He completed 10 of his 15 passes. He threw his second career touchdown pass. And he led the Warriors on seven scoring drives at a field where Lycoming hadn’t won since Shemory was in eighth grade.
“We keep saying he’s a freshman quarterback, but after (Saturday) he’s matured and taken a big step,” Lycoming running back Keith Batkowski said. “As long as we make him comfortable, he can do his thing and help us win games.”
The Lycoming offense operated at nearly peak efficiency Saturday. Coming off a loss to Susquehanna where the Warriors rushed for just 42 yards and forced Shemory into some tough passing situations, Batkowski, Jacob Fimbres and the offensive line made sure a repeat of that performance didn’t happen.
The run game set the tone for the Warriors offense, as it’s always been designed to do under 11th-year head coach Mike Clark as both Batkowski (101) and Fimbres (117) reached the 100-yard mark. The reliance on Shemory’s dangerous right arm was merely a complementary portion of the offense.
And when called upon, Shemory performed at just the level he was needed to. He was smart with the football and didn’t turn it over a week after his four interceptions and lost fumble against Susquehanna.
“I was confident throwing the ball. I wouldn’t say I was hesitant, but I made sure what I was doing was the right thing,” said Shemory after throwing for a career-high 169 yards. “I was making the right reads. It was nothing too risky.”
Shemory’s most efficient work came on third down. Clark called running plays on third-down situations early in the game so as not to heap too much on Shemory’s shoulders too quickly. But when Lycoming began marching the football late in the first quarter, he trusted Shemory to make some big third-down throws.
On the same drive, he hit Zollicoffer as he rolled left and led Costello perfectly to convert on third down. Those two throws helped set up the offense in scoring position and Batkowski finished it off with a 2-yard touchdown run to give the Warriors a seven-point lead.
But even when he wasn’t making big throws on third down, he was making smart decisions. He didn’t force anything on a third-and-13 throw on the Warriors next drive, picking up just a couple yards to keep Jamie Fisher in line for a 39-yard field goal.
On Lycoming’s next series, Shemory absorbed a hit and covered up the football on third-and-goal. The sack ended the Warriors’ touchdown hopes, but left them within Fisher’s field goal range again.
And when the pressure came from a Widener blitz on third-and-5 in the third quarter, Shemory stood tall and dropped a dime to Costello on a corner route for what turned out to be a 34-yard touchdown pass.
It was all a vast change from his first start a week earlier, which the level-headed and even-keeled Shemory seemed to have already shaken off and forgotten.
“I was conscious about keeping the ball and not turning it over,” Shemory said. “This gets me used to the offense more and managing the game. It was nice getting the win and having the team behind me. It gives them confidence in me and confidence in myself.”
“That was the kid we saw in preseason,” Clark said. “He got hit a little and responded. I thought he played a good game.”
Here’s a closer look at Lycoming’s 33-19 win over Widener on Saturday:
TIDE-TURNING PLAY: Lycoming was holding a 13-7 lead late in the first half after the second of Jamie Fisher’s four field goals when Widener took over at its own 18 with 2:37 left in the half. For an offense which scored its first touchdown on a drive which took 2:03 off the clock, it was plenty of time for the Pride to try and move the ball. But on third-and-10, Lycoming defensive tackle Ahmad Curtis shucked three blockers to force quarterback Sean McGaughey out of the pocket to his right. McGaughey tried to throw to a receiver along the sideline, but linebacker Jarrell Payne stepped in front of the pass and returned it to the Widener 7, setting up Shemory’s 1-yard TD run and giving the Warriors a 20-7 halftime lead.
BEST DEFENSIVE STAND: The Warriors’ defense set quite the tone on the first drive of the game. Widener marched methodically into the Lycoming red zone. The coverage from cornerback D.J. Boyd was tight on a second-down fade pattern which fell incomplete in the end zone. Freshman defensive tackle Willie Garner then showed great will when he worked against the offensive line as McGaughey stepped up in the pocket. Garner pursued him for a sack on third down which forced the Pride to settle for a 39-yard field attempt which was missed.
BEST OFFENSIVE PLAY: After a couple big third-down throws on Lycoming’s first touchdown drive, Clark put the ball back in Shemory’s hands on third-and-5 in the third quarter with the Warriors holding on to a 10-point lead. Shemory stared down a blitz and delivered a beautiful ball on a corner route to Costello which he caught and then powered into the end zone for a critical touchdown covering 34 yards. It was a great show of confidence in a freshman quarterback and a great play on the back end by Lycoming’s senior captain.
LOCAL ROUNDUP: Lycoming — Jersey Shore graduate Elijah Shemory was strong in his second career start, completing 10 of 15 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown. He also added a rushing touchdown on a quarterback sneak. Montoursville graduate Keith Batkowski recorded his first career 100-yard rushing game, posting 101 yards on 28 carries, including a 2-yard touchdown run. Hughesville graduate Trey Smith recorded three tackles, including one solo, as did Jersey Shore graduate Dom Loffredo. Warrior Run graduate Pacey Howard also participated on special teams for the Warriors.
LYCOMING OFFENSIVE MVP: For a group which was challenged earlier in the week by Clark, the Warriors’ offensive line played a very strong game. With help from defensive tackle Kyle Pierce, who saw time at guard, the group paved the way for 190 rushing yards and allowed Shemory the time necessary to find receivers downfield.
“I told them if we run for between 175 and 200 yards, we win the game,” Clark said. “There aren’t many kids who could do what Kyle Pierce did. But I think everyone knows it was for the best. I would venture to guess that if you ask any of those three kids he played for, they would say they were OK with what happened.”
LYCOMING DEFENSIVE MVP: Ahmad Curtis was a constant disruption along the defensive line for Lycoming all day. He finished with six tackles, which was the second-most behind Zach Kovach’s seven, but it was how he disrupted what the Widener offensive line was trying to do on nearly every snap which earns him this week’s award. Three Pride offensive linemen tried to block him at various times, including two simultaneously after his initial penetration, but neither of them did on the play with Payne’s interception. Curtis forced McGaughey out of the pocket with his relentless pursuit, and even though there isn’t a stat to quantify the play, he’s a big part of the reason the interception happened.
“So (Widener All-American defensive tackle) Vince Char is an unbelievable player and is the best returning defensive tackle in the league,” Clark said. “But I told Ahmad before the game that I wouldn’t trade Ahmad for him. That’s not to be disrespectful to Vince. But Ahmad can be a difference-maker and we saw that (Saturday). I can’t imagine there are many better defensive tackles in our conference if he plays the way he did (Saturday).”
UNSUNG HERO: Jamie Fisher set a school record Saturday and it was almost an afterthought. The junior out of Ridley High School was playing about 4 miles from where he played in high school and became the first player in Lycoming history to kick four field goals in a game. His kicks from 39, 26, 43 and 23 yards proved to be crucial in a 14-point win.
“We need to end each drive with a kick, whether it’s a punt, a field goal or a PAT, and Jamie was on fire,” Shemory said. “We expect that out of him because he’s a great kicker. He can hit from 40-plus, and that’s awesome to have.”
Mitch Rupert covers Lycoming football for the Sun-Gazette. He can be reached at 326-1551, ext. 3129, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @Mitch_Rupert.