Shore’s Shemory likely to get start

Elijah Shemory arrived in Williamsport knowing he was facing a daunting task. Ever confident in his abilities, the Jersey Shore graduate knew he was capable of being Lycoming’s starting quarterback. But as he looked at the Warriors’ roster, he saw eight or nine other quarterbacks listed.

The challenge for him was finding a way atop that list. Lycoming was looking for a new quarterback with the graduation of 2017 starter Chase Williams and backup Collin Wright, both of whom saw significant time under center.

Shemory will likely get the start this afternoon in his first college football game when Lycoming hosts Susquehanna at David Person Field in the Stagg Hat Trophy game. Shemory emerged as one of the two favorites to earn the starting job during fall camp, along with Lock Haven transfer Chase Snavely, who guided Middletown to the PIAA Class AAA championship game in 2016. Whichever of the freshmen takes the first snap today, they will become the first freshman quarterback to start a game for Lycoming since Tim Hook started seven games in 2007.

“It was daunting because there were only a couple older guys, but they were already familiar with the playbook,” Shemory said. “So I had a learning curve and I had to work harder than they did to pick up the playbook.”

This was the third time in the last four seasons coach Mike Clark was challenged with finding a starting quarterback to open the season. In 2015, Chase Whiteman was the clear-cut choice ahead of the others he competed with after transferring in from Lock Haven. Last season Clark played both Williams and Wright before eventually settling on Williams as the starter early in the season.

With nearly 10 quarterbacks on the roster, Clark and his coaching staff whittled the list to a manageable number of players who had both grasped the concepts of the playbook and showcased accuracy throwing the football. With Shemory, he and quarterbacks coach Tim Landis put a little more of the offense on his plate each day to see how he responded and there was nary a hiccup.

In a joint practice with Ithaca, an eight-win team a year ago, Shemory was a couple dropped passes away from throwing just one incompletion. In a scrimmage last week with a 10-win Franklin & Marshall team, Shemory shook off an early interception and led a touchdown drive just before the half.

“His accuracy has probably been his biggest surprise,” Clark said. “What it comes down to is who can learn the offense and who can process it because it’s not just pass game concepts. It’s keeping yourself protected, understanding choice runs, three-step concepts, zone read runs with the quarterback, RPO concepts. There’s so many different variables that go into ti. But every day we added a little bit more and he handled it. He’s still got a long way to go. But considering the short amount of time he’s been here, I think it’s fair to say we’re pleasantly surprised.”

Shemory came to Lycoming as a 2016 Class AAAA all-state quarterback from Jersey Shore. In two years he threw for nearly 4,400 yards as the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback and helped Jersey Shore win a District 4 championship in 2016. That year he was named to the all-state team after throwing for 2,657 yards and 33 touchdowns.

It’s part of the reason Clark recruited Shemory. He watched the Jersey .Shore product this summer in the District 4 All-Star Game at South Williamsport and thought he looked pretty good. He thought maybe in part it was because his head coach for that game was Jersey Shore head coach Tom Gravish and they were running Shore’s offense. But when Shemory showed up for Lycoming’s fall camp, Clark saw the true freshman keeping up with those who had been with the team during spring ball.

Shemory took the time to dive into the playbook to make sure he had a grasp of every aspect of it. It was far more intricate than what he was used to in high school. There were more progressions to make on passing plays. He had to make sure he got the proper protection to the offensive line, something he had never had to do before. The terminology was all knew.

“I feel like I picked up on it fairly quickly, but I studied a lot during camp,” Shemory said. “It’s all relative to how much you study and how much work you put in during camp.”

Shemory said having the joint practice against Ithaca and the scrimmage against Franklin & Marshall allowed him to get used to the speed of the game at the college level. Everything, he said, moves just a little bit faster than it did in high school, and he was able to get a feel for it.

Although he admitted he a little nervous for his first college game today, he also said he’s excited.

“I wouldn’t say I surprised myself. I expected this,” Shemory said. “I knew I had to play hard and study the playbook and get better every day. Now I just have to run the plays and execute. That’s all I can hope for.”