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Jersey Shore Bulldogs

SUN-GAZETTE FILE PHOTO Jersey Shore reached last year’s PIAA Class AAAA championship game. The Bulldogs lost some players from that team, but are hoping to get back to the state title game in 2021.

Jersey Shore has achieved nearly everything over the last eight seasons, capturing five district championships, four league titles and reaching last year’s Class AAAA state final.

There is just one box left to check off. The Bulldogs nearly reached the state’s summit last year and are hoping they can finish that climb this fall.

Doing so will be anything but easy. Not only does Jersey Shore again face a demanding schedule, but it also must replace several starters who made last year’s run possible, including Class AAAA Player of the Year Owen Anderson, all-state quarterback Branden Wheary, all-state defensive end Dalton Dugan and all-state guard Joe Lorson.

Still, Jersey Shore has faced challenges like this before. The 2019 team was fairly young and reached the state final. Last year’s team had to replace 2018 Player of the Year Tanner Lorson and all-staters Stanton Westlin and Dawson Sechrist.

Great players graduate, but Jersey Shore has built a strong program around the motto that tradition never does. That will again be put to the test, but coach Tom Gravish and his players enjoy embracing challenges like these.

“Part of that tradition never graduates is playing together as a team, working hard and being physical on defense and offense,” Gravish said. “We try to appreciate the game and each other and strive for greatness and have fun doing it together and with each other.”

Doing all that has helped Jersey Shore become one of the state’s premier programs. The hope now is that all those qualities remain in place and send it soaring again.

It certainly helps having some of the district’s premier players to build around. Wide receiver Cayden Hess is the area’s all-time leader in catches and a two-time all-stater; junior linebacker Hayden Packer earned all-state honors in his first year starting and four-year starter Karter Peacock was an all-state candidate before an injury limited him to four games.

“We don’t have many seniors this year, but we’re leaning on them and going to be counting on them for sure,” Gravish said. “We’re confident in those seniors as well.”

This, however, will be Jersey Shore’s youngest team since Gravish took over in 2012. The Bulldogs lost the majority of their starters on both sides of the ball. That, however, does not mean tough times are ahead.

Just because the younger players may not have competed a lot last year does not mean they cannot play. They simply were behind other excellent players and now they have their time to shine. ­­

“There’s some kids in waiting that people in our town of Jersey Shore and other areas will get to know about soon,” Gravish said. “I feel like some of them have a little chip on their shoulder that is going to help them make a name for themselves at this position or that position.”

That starts at quarterback where multiple players are vying to replace Wheary who shined in his first year starting last fall. Brady Jordan, Elijah Jordan, Nick Williams and Jerrin Loomis all are candidates. Brady Jordan saw extensive action last year in multiple roles and totaled 398 yards and seven touchdowns.

Jersey Shore must also replace an all-star running back in 1,000-yard rusher Cam Allison. Packer was an excellent lead blocker who ran for six touchdowns and could receive more carries. Keep an eye on Peacock as well who could move from the line and be a player Jersey Shore utilizes as a runner and receiver. Peyton Sechrist, Kade Sechrist, Gabe Andrus, Donald Steinbacher, Nathan Tyson, Peyton Samar and either Jordan also will factor into the mix.

Whoever does not win the quarterback job could see time as either a running back or receiver. Hess and Kooper Peacock could form a strong tandem with Williams, Connor Griffin and Conner Davis all players who also could have quality seasons.

The offensive line will have a new look but also has plenty of promise. Players like Jared Palski, Luke Springman, Dillan Ross, Deitrich Dammer, Owen Dandruff and Dyson Delaney all are players who could help the line surge as the year progresses. Many of those players also could play defensive roles for unit which traditionally is ranked among the area’s best. Palski played outstanding at linebacker when Gabe Packer was injured during the postseason and has chemistry with Hayden Packer. Stone Sechrist also could play a prominent defensive role. Hess and Kooper Peacock form a standout cornerback tandem and combined with eight interceptions last season, including three during the state tournament.

There will be no easing into this season as the Bulldogs open the season against defending District 6 Class AAAA champion Bellefonte before facing perennial title contenders Selinsgrove and Montoursville. That tough schedule, however, has paid dividends over the years, helping Jersey Shore grow better and start peaking when it matters most in the playoffs.

Yes, Jersey Shore will feature a new look this season but that does not mean the results will change. This is a program accustomed to winning. Younger players have watched the older players set the tone and reach lofty heights. They know what it takes and now it’s a matter of proving it yet again. Whatever the case, Jersey Shore will not be outworked.

“The kids coming back from last year are doing a great job in the offseason of of being examples of what we want in a Jersey Shore Bulldog football player,” Gravish said. “When some of your better players returning are as hard working as they can possibly be that means a lot to the younger kids.”

Jersey Shore Players to Watch

Cayden Hess, WR/DB:

Brody Jordan, QB/RB/DB:

Hayden Packer, LB/RB:

Karter Peacock, DL/OL:

–by CHRIS MASSE

2020 Results

Jersey Shore (10-1)

Jersey Shore 41, Shamokin 7

Jersey Shore 53, Shikellamy 0

Jersey Shore 55, Central Mountain 7

Jersey Shore 33, Selinsgrove 0

Jersey Shore 16, Shikellamy 0

Jersey Shore 21, Central Mountain 9

District 4 Class AAAA Semifinals

No. 1 Jersey Shore 48, No. 4 Mifflinburg 7

Championship

No. 1 Jersey Shore 54, No. 3 Shamokin 0

State Quarterfinals

Jersey Shore 26, Crestwood 14

State Semifinals

Jersey Shore 39, Lampeter-Strasburg 35

State Championship

Jersey Shore 14, Thomas Jefferson 21

2021 Schedule

Aug. 27–Bellefonte

Sept. 3–at Selinsgrove

Sept. 10–Montoursville

Sept. 17–at Lewisburg

Sept. 24–Shikellamy

Oct. 1–at Shamokin

Oct. 8–at Milton

Oct. 15–Danville

Oct. 22–at Bald Eagle Area

Oct. 29–Central Mountain

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