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Sechrist, Packer are quality LBs for Jersey Shore

Dawson Sechrist made 132 tackles last year, becoming a standout linebacker for a district championship defense.

Gabe Packer did not play football last year.

How ironic then that Packer has emerged alongside Sechrist and grown into a quality linebacker. Sechrist is the foundation Jersey Shore builds its defensive success on, but Packer has helped solidify that unit. Together, these two linebackers have helped Jersey Shore repeat as district champion and win a state tournament game for the first time in program history.

Sechrist is District 4’s leading tackler and Packer is averaging seven tackles per game for a defense that has allowed just 14.5 points per game during a six-game winning streak. Those two will try and help Jersey Shore (10-3) keep soaring Friday at Danville when they play against District 11 champion Pottsville.

“Dawson conceptually does what we want him to do week to week. Different teams want to do different things and he comprehends his role and zeroes in on what he has to do,” Jersey Shore coach Tom Gravish said. “Gabe Packer does a good job as well and has really played well. They did a good job (last) Friday of not leaving any cutback lanes.”

Sechrist and Packer combined for 25 tackles in that 33-14 win against Bishop Shanahan, continuing their strong play. Jersey Shore runs a 5-2 front so it is imperative that Sechrist and Packer not only play well, but play smart. They have done so throughout the season, Sechrist helping Packer settle into his role.

Sechrist followed a somewhat similar path to Packer as a junior. He was a first-time starter a year ago who meshed well with all-stater Hunter O’Connor. The more Sechrist adjusted, the better he became and he put together a super season that 10.2 tackles per game and three sacks as Jersey Shore rallied from a slow start and captured a district championship.

This season, the student has become the teacher. Sechrist anchors a fairly young defense that has grown stronger throughout the season. A fiery leader on both sides of the ball, Sechrist has made 158 tackles, averaging 12.2 per game. He also has 13 tackles for loss, 102 solo tackles, four sacks and 33 quarterback hurries. Sechrist also has produced 496 yards of offense and five touchdowns, making him one of Jersey Shore’s most valuable players.

“Ever since I’ve been a starter, there were always people I looked up too from my sophomore year to my senior year,” Sechrist said. “One of the main things I tell the team is be the alpha male and don’t ever give up because we worked harder in the weight room than most teams.”

“We were fairly sure what we would get out of Dawson Sechrist and I think his numbers speak for themselves as he, in my opinion, having an all state type of year with his tackles and ability to cover,” defensive coordinator Alex Jackson said. “Dawson is one of our best overall football players with his ability to play in the box as well as cover.”

Sechrist has topped 10 tackles 10 times and has been at this best in the playoffs, averaging nearly 13 tackles per game. He ignites the defense, but is more than just an outstanding linebacker. Sechrist also has run for 1,132 yards during his scholastic career, while providing exceptional blocking.

The stats, though, do not measure Sechrist’s leadership. He is a tone-setter who plays with a relentless drive. Seeing him play so hard all the time as a senior leader provides younger players the perfect example.

“Dawson has led that way and his stats speak for themselves,” Gravish said. “Dawson plays his heart out. Defense, offense, he’s just all-go all the time.”

Packer has followed that lead, improved each week and become a valuable contributor. Despite not playing last season, Packer worked his way into the starting lineup by midseason and has effectively complemented Sechrist. Packer has a nose for the football and has produced three 10-tackle games. He also has made 22 tackles in three playoff games, seven against Shanahan, and was part of a unit that consistently made critical stops last Friday.

Neither Sechrist (5-foot-9) or Packer (5-8) is tall, but both play big. Packer often has been in the right place at the right time, recovering five fumbles and adding two sacks. He also recorded a safety against Class AAA state quarterfinalist and had an interception in a HAC-I championship-clinching win against Central Mountain.

Considering where Packer was last year, he and Sechrist have formed an unlikely duo. They also have formed quite a good one.

“Gabe Packer didn’t play football as a sophomore so having him sneak into the lineup this year,” Jackson said, “And be as productive, instinctive and coachable a player as he has been has really been huge asset for our defense.”

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