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Jersey Shore vs. Meadville state quarterfinal preview

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Correspondent Jersey Shore’s Cayden Hess dives for a pass to the sideline before making a big gain in the first quarter against Selinsgrove in the District 4 Class AAAA championship.

NOTES: Game is at Clarion University, today, 1 p.m.

Meadville PPG–45.3, PPA–17.4; YPG–397.2, YPA–233.5

Meadville road to quarterfinals: In District 10, beat Harbor Creek, 44-10, and General McLane, 52-19; in states, beat Juniata, 34-27

Meadville notes: The Bulldogs (9-3) have won four straight games and eight of their last nine since starting 1-2. Meadville features a potent running game and has attempted just 34 passes this season, rushing for 4,555 yards. Meadville has topped 40 points nine times and 70 points twice. Juniata rallied from a 20-7 halftime deficit last Saturday and tied the game late before Khalon Simmons ripped off a game-winning 91-yard touchdown run with 2 minutes, 13 seconds remaining. Simmons also returned a kickoff 80 yards for a score earlier in the game. Simmons finished with 181 yards and three touchdowns while Griffin Buzzell ran for 120 yards and a score with Amarri Lewis adding 88 yards. Simmons and Buzzell both have gone over 1,300 yards and Brady Walker over 800. Simmons leads the team with 1,811 yards and 30 touchdowns, going over 100 yards nine times and averaging 11.2 yards per carry. Buzzell has produced 1,398 yards and 19 touchdowns, topping 100 yards seven times and averaging nine yards per carry. Walker, who did not play last week and missed three games, has run for 810 yards and 15 touchdowns, going over 100 yards three times and averaging 8.3 yards per carry. Each back has scored on runs over 60 yards with Simmons producing a 99-yard touchdown. Simmons also is the team’s leading receiver, catching eight of quarterback Grant Longstreth’s 12 completions for 139 yards and three touchdowns. Buzzell has the other four catches for 71 yards. Buzzell also is a talented linebacker who averages a team-high 10.5 tackles per game and has made 14 tackles for loss. He also leads the team with six sacks. Lewis and Jordan Young each have five sacks for an aggressive defense which has produced 33 sacks this season. Simmons has intercepted three passes and defensive end Rhoan Woodrow has made 11 tackles for loss.

Meadville player to watch–Brighton Anderson: The sophomore linebacker has been another reliable defender, averaging 6.1 tackles per game and making 13 tackles for loss. Anderson has a nose for the ball and, in addition to his four sacks, he also has forced three fumbles and recovered two. Anderson has added two interceptions, totaling 87 yards in returns.

Jersey Shore PPG–39.8, PPA–7.8; YPG–398.1, YPA–164.8

Jersey Shore road to quarterfinals: In District 4, beat Lewisburg, 48-7, and Selinsgrove, 41-0; in states, beat Allentown Central Catholic, 20-7

Jersey Shore notes: Jersey Shore is competing in the state quarterfinals for a third straight year and seeking its third consecutive Final Four berth. The four-time defending District 4 champions are competing through the West bracket for the first time since 2013. The Bulldogs (13-0) rallied from a four-point halftime deficit against Central Catholic, outscoring it 17-0 in the second half. Jersey Shore’s defense surrendered its first touchdown since Week 8 against Central Catholic, but blanked it over the final three quarters while allowing just 160 yards. Linebackers Haydn Packer and Karter Peacock combined for 31 tackles, Tate Sechrist collected two sacks, the defensive line surged and the secondary covered well. Defensive tackle Luke Springman made 11 tackles and combined with Dierk Stetts on the game-clinching sack. Jersey Shore produced four sacks and did not allow an offensive point in its two district playoff wins. Packer ran for 130 yards against Central Catholic, going over 1,100 yards this season. Quarterback Brady Jordan and his brother Elijah are over 900 and 700, respectively. Jordan and Cayden Hess combined on four key second-half connections with Hess’s two third-down catches extending a 68-yard touchdown drive which put Jersey Shore ahead 20-7. Hess caught his 50th pass in that game and is the only player in area history to reach 50 catches three consecutive seasons. Jordan has produced more than 3,000 total yards in his first season starting at quarterback and Connor Griffin and Kooper Peacock also are reliable receivers. Griffin topped 100 yards and caught the game-tying touchdown in an overtime win against Montoursville and Peacock has scored seven touchdowns as a rusher and receiver while also performing well on defense and special teams.

Jersey Shore player to watch–Connor Davis: The senior defensive end has been a consistent performer all season and excelled again at Central Catholic, making nine tackles. Davis has made 90 tackles and also has 4 1/2 sacks while intercepting three passes. Davis picked off two passes against Lewisburg in the district semifinals and has been good at knocking down passes at the line of scrimmage.

Winner plays: District 7’s champion, either Belle Vernon or Aliquippa

Outlook: I usually don’t make predictions in this spot, but I guarantee the Bulldogs win today. But seriously, this game all comes to what happens up front. Meadville so frequently has imposed its will up front and slowing its running game is critical. Jersey Shore’s best bet is to try getting Meadville out of a comfort zone in what likely will be a physical and entertaining game.

–By CHRIS MASSE

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