Jersey Shore coach Tom Gravish is aware that tonight’s District 4 Class 4A championship game with Selinsgrove probably won’t go exactly the same as the team’s regular-season meeting.
“We know that’s a good football team with real good players,” Gravish said. “We just happened to hit a good night and played real well.”
Meanwhile, Selinsgrove coach Derek Hicks and his players have been pointing to the district final — and a rematch — after a disappointing 36-0 loss on Aug. 30.
“We had one of our worst games of the year. I’ve watched all of (Jersey Shore’s) games on film except for one,” Hicks said. “That’s the best game they played all season.
“We’re expecting a little better game.”
The Seals (7-4) will have to deal with the Bulldogs tempo better than they did in the first game when Selinsgrove’s defense got tired. Hicks said the offense — which earned just one first down in the first game — has to be better to get the defense a little rest.
“We kept going three-and-out punt, three-and-out punt, it’s not a recipe for success for your defense against that offense,” Hicks said. “I feel like we’ve focused on our conditioning and I feel like we’re prepared for that tempo.”
Selinsgrove’s offense has improved greatly since that first game. Nate Schon leads the team in rushing at 712 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Dean Hollenbach, who had a 99-yard TD run against Midd-West in the semifinal win, adds 466 yards and three scores.
Hicks feels if the offense plays better, that his defense will have a better chance to stop the potent Bulldogs, who scored 72 points last week and averaged 53 points per game since their 56-13 loss to Southern Columbia on Oct. 4.
Tanner Lorson has thrown for 2,388 yards and 25 touchdowns this season.
“Selinsgrove has tough kids on defense. You don’t get an easy yard,” Gravish said. “We’re going to have to earn it.”
That puts pressure on the Selinsgrove pass defense. The Seals have played pretty well on pass defense this season. Take away a two-game stretch against Central Mountain and Danville in which the Seals allowed a combined 538 yards, and Selinsgrove has allowed fewer than 120 yards per game through the air this season.
The biggest difference for the Seals since the Jersey Shore game, Danny Shoch has been playing pretty regularly at the cornerback opposite four-year starter Josh Nylund. Shoch, at 6-foot-3, gives the Seals some extra size on the outside.
“Danny helps play the fade ball in the end zone that (Jersey Shore) likes to run,” Hicks said.
Nylund leads the Seals with five interceptions, and sophomore safety Teague Hoover has four interceptions.
Another worry for Selinsgrove, Jersey Shore had its best running game of the season against the Braves.
“We’ve had five underclassmen all season and they’ve been a work in progress,” Gravish said. “They’ve done a great job of getting better as the season wore on.”
The Bulldogs rolled up more than 400 yards on the ground as tailback Josh Malicky has a season-high 216 yards on the ground. After just one 100-yard game, Malicky has run for more than 100 yards in each of the Bulldogs last three wins.