By Harold Raker
The Daily Item
DANVILLE — Some fans may think that Friday’s Heartland Athletic Conference Division one game between Jersey Shore and visiting Danville is important because of what it means to both teams in the District 4 seeding points.
That is correct, but it is but one reason Danville coach Jim Keiser wants his Ironmen (5-0 overall, 3-0 HAC-I) to return from Clinton County with their sixth win.
The Ironmen will drop to HAC Division II, next season after a successful four-year run in D1.
“I would like our four-year term to end by winning it all and if we are going to do that, we have to beat Jersey Shore, Shikellamy (in two weeks) and Selinsgrove (in the final regular-season game),” Keiser said.
Keiser also knows that this Bulldogs team is much better than the one which ran the table in the wrong direction last season.
“They are much better,” Keiser said of the Bulldogs (2-3, 1-1). I think coach (Tom) Gravish has done a great job with them. The thing I have seen on film and our staff was talking to me about is they are so much quicker than they have been.”
Keiser said Jersey Shore always has decent athletes, but they have been small up front.
“Their offensive line is very quick and the defensive line is very quick, and their linebackers are very active,” he said.
Keiser had a lot of praise for one of the Bulldogs’ best all-around athletes, senior tailback/linebacker Utoah Agae-Naipo.
“They are a different football team with him,” Keiser said of the 5-foot-10, 185-pounder. “He is really something else. I am really impressed with him.”
Also playing a big role in the Jersey Shore turnaround is junior quarterback Logan English.
Keiser said, “He is a very heady kid, he doesn’t make many mistakes and he throws a nice ball right on a line.
He added that English has some good athletic receivers.
Gravish, in his second year at the helm in Jersey Shore, said, “Danville is an outstanding team.”
He described what he has seen of the Ironmen this season in one word: “Wow.”
Gravish added, “They are extremely well-coached and have no weaknesses. Their offensive line does a great job and they have a super group of running backs.”
The leader of that group, senior Sam Dressler, has already picked up 728 yards on just 96 carries, with nine touchdowns.
Gravish added, “Their quarterback (senior Weston Baylor) is a big-time player both as a passer and a runner.
He said the Ironmen’s defense is solid at all positions and gets to the football.
”They are as good of a team as I have seen in the past few years,” Gravish added.
And that Danville defense, criticized early in the season by Keiser for not performing up to expectations, has been solid of late.
In last week’s 34-6 win over rival Central Columbia, Keiser said, “I thought we played our best game to this point, as far as offense, defense and, I thought, our special teams played very well, too.”
Now the Ironmen hope to continue their roll, this time after a long bus ride through the mountains.
“It is always a concern when yo0 have to take those long trips. The kids are sitting in a school bus for 45 or 50 minutes and are half asleep. But (the Bulldogs) have to do it every other year, come here, so you have to adjust.”