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No questions about Shore’s receivers anymore

If a defense slowed Koby Peacock last fall, it often slowed the entire Jersey Shore passing game. Peacock caught 35 percent of his team’s passes, including seven touchdowns.

When Peacock graduated in June, it placed an obvius question mark on the incoming receiving group.

Eight weeks into the 2019 season that question has been emphatically answered. Jersey Shore’s receivers have become one of the team’s main strengths and are a major reason the Bulldogs lead District 4 in passing yards. There is no taking away one receiver and erasing the passing threat. Instead, the Bulldogs possess a quartet of receivers who can all take over a game and who have all made significant impacts.

That became apparent over and over again last Friday at Lewisburg. Tanner Lorson completed passes to six receivers. Twenty-two of the 37 passes he threw were completed for 400 yards and four touchdowns as the Bulldogs won a share of a second consecutive HAC-I championship and defeated the Green Dragons, 47-21.

Cayden Hess caught eight passes for 160 yards, Stanton Westlin caught two touchdowns and Owen Anderson added another. All six receivers produced at least 34 yards. Loron’s 400 yards were the most by an area quarterback since 2014 and he became just the third area passer in the 2000s to reach 400 yards.

“There’s been games where this one particular guy shines a little bit more than this other one and that’s a good thing,” Jersey Shore coach Tom Gravish said. “(Anthony) Shaffer made a couple clutch plays. Tanner spreads it around and hopefully we can keep doing that.”

“We have some really good balance so you don’t have to worry about all the pressure being on one person,” Hess said. “We’re all just coming together and making plays and having fun.”

Against Lewisburg, Lorson became just the second player in program history to go over 2,000 yards in a season and he is having a tremendous senior year. It certainly helps having such good playmakers at his disposal. Hess, Westlin, Anderson and Shaffer have all caught between 25 and 37 passes and all have produced multiple touchdowns. All four complement each other well and give Jersey Shore several ways to attack defenses.

In terms of numbers, this is the deepest receiving group this area has produced in the 2000s. Westlin is among district leaders with eight touchdown catches and Hess is in the mix for the reception lead with 37. Anderson caught a 28-yard touchdown on Jersey Shore’s opening possession and Hess started asserting himself soon after. Shaffer (five catches, 58 yards) worked the middle of the field well, and Westlin twice scored on deep passes down the sideline. Dawson Sechrist added a 68-yard catch out of the backfield, and tight end Ryan Kerschner caught a 34-yard pass. Each player has a role and is flourishing in it.

“Anthony went to a different level receiving and Stanton and Owen have done a nice job. Hess was only a freshman last year, but he played in all 13 games. He didn’t have a bunch of catches to show for it but we knew he would have a pretty good year based off the offseason,” Gravish said. “It’s hard sometimes because there are some other guys like (freshman) Kooper Peacock and Dalton Dugan who had great summers and we can’t find them the time.”

That is a good dilemma and one that did not just happen. The incoming receivers understood the void Koby Peacock left and embraced the challenge that awaited. They vigorously attacked the offseason, attended various 7-on-7 camps and developed a strong chemistry with a quarterback who is much more comfortable after being a first-time starter a year ago. Put it all together and Jersey Shore has produced more than 200 passing yards six times in eight games. Lorson has thrown for 713 yards the last two weeks, and all four leading receivers have caught multiple passes in each of those games.

“Knowing that Brett Guthrie and Anthony Shaffer and myself were coming back and and having Cayden Hess there to pick it up and basically replace Koby and fill that role has really been nice,” Westlin said. “Going into the offseason we definitely did grind and went to a lot of 7-on-7s. People were busting their butts and it feels really good to have those passing schemes down now.”

Jersey Shore is doing this against lightweight opponents either. The non-conference schedule is the area’s toughest and already has included games against Southern Columbia, Montoursville, Mount Carmel and Bellefonte. Defending District 9 Class AAA champion Bald Eagle Area is the next challenge this Friday night. The Bulldogs enjoy playing these big games and that is what they spend the offseason building toward.

Look at Jersey Shore’s receivers and one sees a group which made sure it paid that offseason price. Now they, Lorson and Jersey Shore are reaping the profits.

“We had a lot of our receiving core going to 7-on-7s so we did a really nice job with that this summer,” Hess said. “We worked hard. We knew we were losing some good players so we had to have guys step into some spots. We did our job.”

SUPER SPAULDING

Lewisburg’s Mr. Everything, Ethan Spaulding, continued shining against Jersey Shore. Spaulding has done just about everything defensively this season, playing along the defensive line, at linebacker and at safety. He also has carried the ball, caught touchdowns and thrown the ball. He did it again against Jersey Shore, leading the team in tackles, collecting a sack, making three tackles for loss and breaking up two passes.

Spaulding threw a 31-yard strike to Jack Landis on Lewisburg’s first offensive play and fueled a touchdown drive. He later turned a screen pass into a 51-yard touchdown, making an outstanding cut upfield before weaving his way through a broken field. Spaulding did not play much offense until Week 6, but has caught touchdowns in three consecutive games and has done all he can to help Lewisburg (5-3) flourish without all-state running back Max Moyers, who suffered a torn ACL 2 1/2 weeks ago.

“He is doing one heck of a job,” Gravish said. “He’s going both ways and, especially on defense, he’s outstanding.”

5K CLUB

Lewisburg quarterback Nick Shedleski threw for 173 yards and two touchdowns against Jersey Shore, becoming just the sixth player in area history to reach 5,000 career yards. Shedleski, one of only two players to record four 1,000-yard seasons in a row joins an elite fraternity which includes Montoursville’s Brycen Mussina, Loyalsock’s Pat Carey, Williamsport’s Isaiah Hankins, Wellsboro’s Mike Pietropola and Loyalsock’s Connor Watkins. The senior captain has produced 5,026 yards and 38 touchdowns, helping Lewisburg reach the playoffs each year.

EXTRA POINTS

Canton quarterback Uriah Bailie threw for 103 yards at Wellsboro, becoming the first Warrior quarterback of the 2000s to reach both 1,000 passing and rushing yards in the same season. The senior has totaled 2,171 yards and 24 touchdowns … North Penn-Mansfield quarterback Colton Litzelman threw for 194 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-32 loss against Towanda, going over 1,000 yards in his first year starting. Litzelman has thrown for 1,101 yards, 12 touchdowns and just one interception in 179 attempts. Canton plays at North Penn-Mansfield on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. … Bucktail running back Gage Sutliff produced his sixth consecutive 100-yard game in a 22-14 loss against Pottsville Nativity, going over 1,000 yards. The junior is just the second Bucktail player in the last 15 years to reach that milestone … Cowanesque Valley wide receiver Kole Hurler became his team’s all-time leading receiver with his four catches in a 55-28 loss against Sayre. Senior quarterback Seth Huyler went over 1,000 yards for a second consecutive season, and freshman Elliott Good ran for a career-high 225 yards and two touchdowns.

Dr. Masse’s Top 5 football teams

1. Montoursville (8-0)

As outstanding as Montoursville has been through the 2000s, it had never captured an outright league championship. Until last Friday night. Montoursville carved out a unique niche in the 2000s, blanking Mifflinburg, 38-0, and winning the HAC-II championship. The Warriors recorded their third shutout and the starters have surrendered just two touchdowns over the last 23 quarters. Jaxon Dalena has made a big impact since returning and caught a 75-yard touchdown from Hunter Shearer. Rocco Pulizzi, Dylan Moll and Logan Ott all ran for more than 60 yards behind a strong offensive line which helped Montoursville impose the mercy rule by halftime. Ian Plankenhorn added his third field goal from 40 or more yards.

2. Jersey Shore (5-3)

Defensive end Ryan Kerschner was a force against Lewisburg, recording two sacks and making nine tackles. Kerschner leads the team in sacks and played a major role in disrupting Lewisburg’s passing game. Kerschner hurried QB Nick Shedleski six times and helped the defense allow two touchdowns against a team which had scored 80 points over the previous two weeks. The Bulldogs are battling Selinsgrove for the top District 4 Class AAAA seed and Friday’s showdown against Bald Eagle Area offers valuable playoff positioning potential.

3. Wellsboro (7-1):

The Green Hornets made a major statement, walloping previously undefeated Canton, 40-6. Running back Aidan Hauser was outstanding again, running for 189 yards, but it is the development of sophomore quarterback Isaac Keane which really has Wellsboro looking dangerous. Keane has been brilliant the last three weeks and played his best game against the area’s second-ranked defense, completing 10 of 17 passes for a career-high 212 yards and three touchdowns.

“That’s huge. We have a lot of athletes we spread all over the field that can make plays for us,” Hauser said. “So if they key on me and the run, we have this pass game. And if they want to key on the pass game, we have the run. We can switch it up all the time.”

“Isaac is a sophomore, but hitting his stride right now. Had some great growth in the last two or three weeks and he’s starting to be really comfortable. The ball is coming out of his hands differently and he’s driving the ball in there and making the correct read,” Wellsboro coach Matt Hildebrand said. “The maturity and the game time, and it’s what you hope for as a coach. It’s huge for us going forward because you can’t be a one-man show, you can’t just key on Hauser. You have to account for other receivers have out there. It makes us a totally better football team moving ahead.”

4. Warrior Run (5-3)

If there are still those who doubt Warrior Run is for real, they are clueless. The Defenders made a major statement and announced themselves as a District 4 Class AAA title contender, going on the road and defeating Central Columbia, 14-10. Riley Daubert returned an interception 50 yards for the game-winning touchdown and the defense was spectacular. That unit has surrendered just two touchdowns during a three-game winning streak and linebacker Jackson Welliver made a game-high 13 tackles — three for loss — and added a sack. Kenny Newman played his best high school game and made a career-high 10 tackles. Maybe most impressive, the Defenders made 13 tackles for loss and are a victory from recording their first winning season since 2006.

5. Loyalsock (5-3)

Loyalsock travels to Warrior Run on Friday and that should be an outstanding game between surging teams. The Lancers moved to No. 2 in AAA, building a 38-point halftime lead in a 53-14 win against Milton. The starters did not allow a point for a second consecutive week and the defense held a third consecutive opponent to fewer than 200 yards with Eli Gair returning an interception for a touchdown. Rees Watkins caught seven passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns as Loyalsock improved to 4-0 when the first-time varsity football player tops 100 yards. Chase Cavanaugh threw three touchdowns, Davion Hill scored for a sixth time in seven games, and Korie Mayer made three tackles for loss.

Players of the Week

Tanner Lorson, Jersey Shore and Ahmahd Keyes, Warrior Run

Lorson was virtually unstoppable against Lewisburg, totaling 475 yards and five touchdowns. It was the fourth time this season Lorson produced more than 300 yards and multiple touchdowns. Keyes set up camp in Central’s backfield and consistently wrecked plays all night. Five of his nine tackles went for loss and Keyes also collected his fourth sack. Keyes is a versatile weapon on both sides of the ball and his ability to stifle the run and attack the passer and helped Warrior Run beat the Blue Jays for the first time in five years.

Game of the Week

Southern Columbia at Montoursville

Two of the state’s premier teams collide Friday at Memorial Stadium in this long-anticipated showdown. No team has been able to hang with Southern and Montoursville will see if it can buck that trend. While Montoursville is a big underdog, remember that the 2015 District 4 Class AA championship. Many thought Southern would win a blowout that night, but it edged the Warriors, 56-50, in one of the most exciting District 4 playoff games ever. Ultimately, these are all new players but it could provide Montoursville inspiration. It also helps that the Warriors are playing so well entering this game.

Masse may be reached at cmasse@sungazette.com. Follow him on Twitter at @docmasse.

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