By Todd Frisco
For The Daily Item
CAMP HILL — A week ago, Selinsgrove’s 500th all-time football victory passed as quietly as possible: With complete silence.
But after win No. 501 over a game but outmanned Trinity team Friday night, the Seals just might start making some real noise.
A monster night by running back Zach Adams — 251 yards and three touchdowns rushing on just 20 carries is Godzillian — and better-than-the-stats defense propelled Selinsgrove to a 42-23 triumph and a 2-0 start.
Make no mistake, Selinsgrove has plenty of work ahead of it before it becomes playoff worthy. But an explosive second half, ignited by Mason Pope’s 60-yard kickoff return, put the Seals on a very good future track.
"This was a great, great night for us," Selinsgrove coach Dave Hess said. "It was a great night for our defense."
That is not the usual sentiment of a coach whose defense had yielded 348 passing yards, but in this case, context matters.
First, Trinity, a quality Class AA program that uses every inch of grass at COBO Field, throws. And throws. And throws. The Shamrocks fired up 49 passes at the Seals and completed 30, three of which found the end zone.
But despite those gaudy numbers, Trinity never really damaged the Seals. For one thing, the vast majority of the Shamrocks’ passing yards and touchdowns came late in the game after Selinsgrove had shattered a 7-7 halftime tie with the kind of Trinity-like big plays that had worried Hess all week.
Hess was thrilled that his defense, facing a frenetic spread offense, tied up the Shamrocks on the edge where Trinity’s quickness can cause problems.
"We don’t see that type of offense a lot, but we will play some teams that do throw the ball a little more, so that was a great game for our defense,’’ said Hess. It should be noted that Trinity could barely move the ball forward on the ground, netting just 45 yards rushing.
The big problem for the Seals was their own offensive sluggishness in the first half. With Trinity flying hard to the ball, Selinsgrove’s solid rushing game was hamstrung, producing just 69 yards and no scores.
It took a well-timed play-action pass from quarterback Isaiah Rapp to tight end Dylan Beaver, who slipped behind the whole of the Trinity secondary when they bit like rat on cheese on the play fake, to score.
The 21-yard play with 6:38 left in the second quarter matched an earlier 11-yard touchdown pass by Trinity’s Mike Boguski to Shamrock standout receiver Brandon Kuntz.
But things changed immediately with the second-half kickoff.
Pope gathered the kick at his own 5 and burst through nice blocking on the right side, reaching the 35 before Trinity kicker David Bricker dragged him down at the ‘Rocks’ 35.
Fuse, meet match.
Adams, who was Selinsgrove’s No. 3 rusher in the opening win over Mifflinburg, reeled off runs of 14 and 21 yards for the score and a 14-7 Selinsgrove lead just 30 seconds into the third quarter. Although it would take two more empty series before Selinsgrove scored again on a tackle-breaking 84-yard run by Adams, Selinsgrove had wrapped its hand around the Shamrocks’ throat.
"That kickoff return (by Pope) was gigantic," Hess said. "We had to get a sudden change right off the bat in the second half, and that was it. It was perfect."
Trinity coach Bill Ragni agreed entirely with Hess’ assessment, Well, except maybe the "perfect" part.
"That kickoff return really hurt us," Ragni said. "We played a pretty solid first half and the kickoff nearly made it to the end zone. But that gave them a short field, and there’s no way we could play short fields with that group."
The game was completely in Selinsgrove’s hands as Trinity, a bit thin defensively, started to fade. A 40-yard scoring run by Angelo Martin was followed by a 65-yard interception return by Jack Gaugler to push the Seals to a 35-7 lead with 6:16 to play in the game.
The teams managed to score three touchdowns in that final 6:16 — two by Trinity’s Kuntz, including a spectacular one-handed grab and Adams’ third score on a 56-yard run– to strain the COBO Field scoreboard.
Selinsgrove finished with 345 rushing yards, boosting its rushing total to 590 yards in its first two games.