By Harold Raker
The Daily Item
JERSEY SHORE —
If the first-year Jersey Shore coach gets what he wants out of his team, and the Bulldogs are able to uphold their home-field tradition Friday night, the winless Bulldogs could have something for the Shikellamy as it looks for a third win in a row in Friday night’s Heartland Athletic Conference Division I game.
Tom Gravish said the key for his young team is to “get off to a good start, get the offense going and be competitive early.”
“I feel like if we get off to a good start, get a couple quick scores, we have a chance. We have to score first, and not shoot ourselves in the foot early,” he said.
Gravish said that, in a loss to Mifflinburg two weeks ago, “our defense played real well, and we played a competitive game. We were scoreless through three quarters.”
Over the years, the Braves have often found the Bulldogs, no matter what the teams’ records, to give them a competitive game, even pulling the occasional upset win.
“We are aware of that,” first-year Shikellamy coach Todd Tilford said. “We have had several former coaches and teachers say we always have trouble at Jersey Shore, and we’ve got that in the back of our minds.”
Shikellamy (3-3 overall, 1-1 HAC-III) is trying to win its third game in a row and stay alive for at least a share of the division title, with Danville coming up next week.
“We looked at them on tape and they definitely have athletes that can make some plays and they have played a real tough schedule,” Tilford said.
He noted that his own team is beginning to get healthy and this is a game that the Braves need to take care of.
“We are playing for a chance to get over .500 and for a chance in the league, and winning three games in a row, and hopefully get on a run here,” he said.
But, he added, “A winless team that has some talent can be scary. They can be playing with nothing to lose and you’ve got to expect the unexpected.”
He said Warrior Run moved the ball against the Braves last week and that his team must improve its pass defense if they are going to have success down the stretch.
He said the Bulldogs’ junior tailback/linebacker Utoah Agae-Naipo is a good athlete and they like to get him the ball. The 5-foot-10, 170-pound Agae-Naipo has rushed for 586 yards and three touchdowns on 101 carries.
He added that junior quarterback Jordan Tawney, is “a big kid who likes to run.”
The 5-10, 200 Tawney has thrown for 202 yards and two TDs and sophomore quarterback Logan English has passed for 283 and two more scores.
“We’ve just got to keep on improving. Our offensive line last week, it was the first time that we can’t say we had a ton of mistakes. They were doing what they were supposed to do and we didn’t stop ourselves, That is a good sign and hopefully we go up and get a little test on the road and get above .500 and come home for Danville,” Tilford said.
Gravish, who formerly coached at Williamsport, said his team is young, but continuing to improve. He said most weeks the Bulldogs have no more than three or four seniors in the starting lineup.
He said Shikellamy will provide a challenge. “(Quarterback Garrett) Kemberling can do just about anything. They are well coached by Todd Tilford and Todd West, the defensive coordinator. I have known them for a few years. You can see the job they’re doing. They’re having a great year.”
He added that he likes Braves junior fullback/linebacker Dwayne Pepper. “He’s a nice runner.”
But, he said, because of the absence of several players, “We didn’t focus too much on (last week’s Warrior Run game). We focused more on the plays than the players,” he said.