Some Jersey Shore players wore ice bags, some looked angry and others welled up.
Nobody looked happy. And why would they? It did not matter that Jersey Shore had thrown a serious scare into undefeated Montoursville and that it still had a chance to win the game midway through the fourth quarter.
All that mattered was that it lost. Montoursville scored 14 straight fourth-quarter points to pull away for a 31-14 win Friday at Thompson Street Stadium in a game closer and fiercer than the final indicated. In years past, playing an outstanding opponent might have been a sense of pride.
Montoursville's Alex Erb and Curtis Miller break up a pass intended for Jersey Shore's Brody Smith Friday.
This time it only left Jersey Shore players and coaches disappointed.
And that is a good thing. After going 1-19 the previous two seasons, Jersey Shore (1-2) is not settling. No matter the opponent, Jersey Shore believes it can win. That alone is a big step forward, especially for a talented and hungry team.
Forget that. This is a good team, period.
"We're not out for moral victories. We were expecting to win the football game (Friday)," Jersey Shore coach Tom Gravish said. "We weren't expecting just to be in a close game. We realize we didn't play our best football and we'll get back after it and work real hard."
The Bulldogs snapped a 13-game losing streak in Week 2 when they thumped Shamokin, 33-14. The baggage of that losing streak removed, Jersey Shore played like a team that had no doubt it would win Friday. Defenders made big hits, receivers made big catches and running backs produced big runs.
The result was not what Jersey Shore wanted but it continued showing better days are coming.
"They did a nice job. They are a good football team so getting a win here was great," Montoursville coach J.C. Keefer said. "They are a good team coached by some excellent coaches, so I knew it was going to be a dog fight."
All three Jersey Shore games have been. The Bulldogs are a few plays from possibly being 3-0. They lost to Troy by 17 in the opener in a game that mirrored Friday's with it being a 3-point second-half contest. They are frustrated to not be 3-0, but also realize if they finish games stronger the next seven weeks could be big ones.
A year ago, many of the Bulldogs learned on the job and were one of the district's youngest teams. They took their lumps but have grown and are a quality group. There are playmakers all over the field on both sides of the ball, including Utoah Agae-Naipo (141 yards rushing, 12 tackles), Dom Loffredo (14 tackles) and Brody Smith (6 catches, 96 yards), to name a few.
Jersey Shore can run it, throw it and play hard-nosed defense. Going from 0-10 to a playoff contender in a year is difficult but do not count out these Bulldogs. They have what it takes and are not settling anymore.
"We believe in these kids and we're going to get right back after it. We'll be positive and be ready to go," Gravish said. "Every team on our schedule is tough but we feel like we can beat any team on our schedule too."
MUCH-NEEDED: After steamrolling its first two opponents, Montoursville was tested for the first time at Jersey Shore. The Warriors had outscored Warrior Run and Central Columbia, 83-6, but trailed Jersey Shore at halftime.
Nothing came easy Friday, but that was just fine with the Warriors. This was the test they desperately needed as they try and make a run at a District 4 Class AA championship. They aced it too, scoring 28 second-half points and winning the fourth quarter 14-0 against a tough team.
"We needed this," Keefer said. "We're going to have this every week from here on out. It was good to get in the situation like we were in and to execute and get the win."
Jersey Shore was driving for the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter before linebacker Ethan Jones intercepted a pass and returned it 53 yards for a touchdown. Alex Erb intercepted his second pass on the ensuing possession and Cam Ott (165 yards, 3 touchdowns) scored a game-clinching 35-yard touchdown eight plays later.
Jersey Shore held Montoursville to just three first-half points despite it being in Bulldog territory four straight times. The game was intense and the Warriors easily could have grown frustrated. Instead they responded like good teams do and took over.
"This is certainly good for us," Jones said. "This brings out your real character. Some teams put their heads down but we move forward."
"They didn't panic," Keefer said. "We went in at halftime and made some adjustments to what we saw and the kids came out and executed. That's what you want to see from a group like this and I was really proud of how they handled the intensity of the game."
BATTLING BUCKS: Bucktail won its first game, rallying to edge Wyalusing, 20-19. It was a big win against a team that blanked Sayre, 21-0 the previous week. The Bucks overcame a 13-0 halftime deficit and went ahead when quarterback Trent Risley ran in for a six-yard touchdown with 5:21 remaining. It was a big win for a young team that could use this as a springboard.
Running back Aaron Ransdorf ran for 109 yards and two touchdowns while quarterback Trent Risley ran for 78 yards and completed 8 of 9 passes. The defense played outstanding in the second half, holding Wyalusing scoreless until the game's last two minutes.
Coach Bruce Ransom and his staff consistently do a nice job despite Bucktail being the state's smallest school that does not co-op in football. The Bucks have reached the postseason three straight years and the way they fought back Friday could signal more good things to come.
EXTRA POINTS: Montgomery played its best defensive game in two years and nearly stunned Muncy before losing, 19-6. The Red Raiders led 6-0 at halftime and took a big step forward against a strong team ... North Penn (2-1) won its second straight, downing Canton 26-21. The Panthers have scored 70 points the last two weeks and are tied for first in the NTL Big School Division with Wellsboro and Towanda. North Penn travels to Towanda Friday ... Central Mountain's Tyler Pavalko is one of the area's best all-around players and is a three-way threat. He returned two kickoffs 90 and 87 yards for scores in a 57-35 loss at Mifflin County. Pavalko also caught seven passes, including two touchdowns, and finished with 296 all-purpose yards ... Milton produced three 100-yard rushers for a second straight week, but lost a thriller to Mifflinburg, 38-34. Jayson English (193), Jovan Garrison (104) and Josh Brown (100) all reached or topped the mark.
Dr. Masse's area top five
1. Montoursville (3-0): Senior Alex Erb is one of the best safeties around and also is developing into a strong wide receiver. He caught three passes for 50 yards Friday and also intercepted two passes while breaking up another. The starting defense allowed its first points of the season, but also forced five turnovers and Wyatt Entz added a sack for a second straight week. Mike Signor also was tough up front and had a sack and a few quarterback hurries.
2. South Williamsport (3-0): One reason the Mounties are undefeated for a second straight year is because of how well they take care of the football. The starters have not turned the ball over yet and South overpowered CMVT, 41-12 Saturday, improving to 13-2 over the last two years. Linebacker Ryan Seagrave continued playing well and returned an interception 50 yards to set up a touchdown. The Mounties travel to Southern Columbia Friday for a rematch of last year's District 4 Class A championship and an early-season showdown between undefeated teams.
3. Wellsboro (3-0): The Green Hornets are 3-0 for the first time since 2001 and continue putting up some eye-popping offensive numbers. Wellsboro built a 42-point halftime lead Friday and thumped Cowanesque Valley, 42-6 as Mike Pietropola threw for 209 yards and four touchdowns. The junior quarterback has thrown 10 touchdown passes already, including at least three in every game. Wellsboro can run the ball too. Jermaine Brooks ran for 105 yards and is one of three Hornets who has topped 170 yards thus far. The starting defense has been strong and has allowed just one offensive touchdown in three games.
4. Muncy (3-0): The Indians have to get a lot better if they hope to make a run at a District 4 Class A playoff berth and NTL Small School championship. Still, give them credit for not panicking Friday and outscoring Montgomery, 19-0 in the second half. The defense allowed only 10 yards, a remarkable number that likely will be the best in District 4 this season. Quarterback Anthony Barberio has thrown six touchdowns and no interceptions and versatile Ken Koch continues making big plays. He caught two touchdowns against Montgomery a week after returning a kickoff 90 yards for a score.
5. Lewisburg (2-1): Logan Aikey burst onto the area scholastic scene at Hughesville, running for 178 yards and three touchdowns in Friday's 42-7 win. This after he had just five carries for 12 yards the first two weeks. Lewisburg ran the ball well for the first time this season and its defense continued excelling, allowing just 139 yards. The defense has been stingy and opportunistic, forcing 10 turnovers. Lewisburg faces a big test Friday when it hosts Shikellamy, fresh off its shocking win over District 4 Class AAA champion Selinsgrove.
Player of the week
Bryce Zaparzysnki, North Penn: The junior running back is playing as well as anyone in the area. He played the best game of his scholastic career Friday, running for 277 yards and two touchdowns on 42 carries as North Penn edged Canton, 26-21. Zaparzynski has run for 459 yards the last two weeks, helping
North Penn (2-1) win two straight. He also has scored eight touchdowns in three different ways thus far.
Game of the week
Wellsboro at Canton: This is not as much for the matchup as it is for the milestone. lights come on at Canton for the first time ever Friday evening. Canton hosts its first night game in its long history and tries pulling a big upset against the undefeated Hornets. Wellsboro won an exciting game last year, 21-15.