The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

October 17, 2013

Selinsgrove faces key matchup at Jersey Shore

By Todd Hummel
For The Daily Item

— JERSEY SHORE — Believe it or not, Friday night’s trip to Thompson Street Stadium for the Selinsgrove football team might be the Seals’ most important trip to Lycoming County in recent memory.

Selinsgrove faces the Bulldogs in a key Heartland Athletic Conference-Division I matchup and one with District 4 Class AAA playoff seeding implications.

The Seals, currently in the midst of a three-game losing streak, lost any chance at a HAC-I title with last week’s loss to Milton and must win to keep alive  theirs chances for a home playoff berth. The Seals are currently third in points trailing Shikellamy and top-seeded Milton. With games remaining with Mount Carmel and Danville, Selinsgrove needs to begin to build momentum against the Bulldogs.

“If we are even going to begin to think about a home playoff game, we need this one,” Selinsgrove coach Dave Hess said. “We can’t begin to think about playoffs yet; we have to be concerned about Jersey Shore.”

Jersey Shore (2-5 overall, 1-3 HAC-I) certainly isn’t one’s typical two-win team. The Bulldogs are much improved this season under second-year head coach Tom Gravish. Jersey Shore has given Montoursville, Mifflinburg and Danville fits, before those teams were able to pull away and has a win over Bloomsburg earlier this season.

“We are a little better than we were in 2012. We believe in our players and truly believe that we have not played our best game to this point of the season,” Gravish said. “We are a really young football team and we are learning what is expected in order to win football games against great competition. This Friday is a new opportunity to achieve our goal of playing great football against the best competition. We are expecting to play a great game Friday.”

For Selinsgrove (3-4 overall, 2-1 HAC-I) to overcome Jersey Shore, the Seals will have to solve some problems in the passing game on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.

Since losing junior Zach Adams to injury, the Selinsgrove offense has struggled to get a big play in the passing game, despite a 75-yard TD pass in the first quarter against Southern Columbia two weeks ago. Taking out their one big play against the Tigers, the Seals have averaged just 85 yards per game passing.

With the Bulldogs’ style of defense, a 5-2 with a willingness to put nine players in the box to stop the run, Selinsgrove’s passing game will be a key against Jersey Shore.

“Our passing game is not nearly the threat it should be at this point in the season. With the way they crowd the line of scrimmage, we need to be effective in the passing game,” Hess said. “It’s been sporadic at best. We have the athletes (to make the plays down the field); we just haven’t been able to.”

The Seals have also struggled in pass defense. Opponents have completed 64 percent of their passes this season and Selinsgrove has given up more than 150 yards through the air four times in seven games.

“We’ve made some changes in what we want to do (in the secondary),” Hess said. “We tried to do some different things in the secondary, but we are just going basic and hopefully we can start to make some plays back there.”

Jersey Shore junior Logan English has thrown for 799 yards and six touchdowns this season, while junior Brody Smith has been his favorite target. Smith leads the team with 26 catches.

One plus for the Seals: their preparations should at least be easier than normal this week for the Bulldogs. Jersey Shore and Selinsgrove run a similar offense.

“They run a lot of the same stuff we do, which is good since we’re familiar with it,” Hess said.