Jersey Shore defeats Crestwood to advanced to the PIAA Class 4A Semifinals
MOUNTAIN TOP – At any level of football, and in any game of football, but most especially in the postseason, turnovers will more than likely be your downfall if you have too many of them.
That is what happened to Crestwood on Friday as the Comets committed four turnovers and Jersey Shore scored off three of them, with the fourth essentially ending the game, and the District 4 champion Bulldogs advanced to the PIAA Class 4A semifinals for the second straight year with a 26-14 win over the District 2 champion Comets.
“We knew this wouldn’t be an easy game, and that’s what we said at halftime, but we knew if we kept pounding the rock, we’d make our plays and we emphasized that big-time players make big-time plays in big games and our guys did,” said Jersey Shore coach Tom Gravish. “We knew Crestwood was going to make some plays because they’re that good, but we knew we would, too, and we’re happy to get out of here with a win.”
With both teams entering the game with perfect 8-0 records, one would figure it would be a close game, and it was throughout, with the outcome not completely decided until Kooper Peacock intercepted a Noah Schultz pass in the end zone with :28 left in the fourth quarter to seal it.
Although he threw two picks – both to Peacock and both late in the fourth quarter – Schultz filled in admirably for Ryan Petrosky, the Comets’ starting quarterback who was out with an injury. Schultz, a sophomore, ran for 136 yards on 22 carries and scored both of Crestwood’s touchdowns, and he also threw for 102 yards on 8-of-16 passing.
“We said it earlier in the week that we need to finish drives, so give them all the credit, they held us out and made us earn every inch, and all the credit to them,” said Crestwood coach Ryan Arcangeli. “Noah did a tremendous job doing all he could to will his team to a victory. Great team leadership allows for that and we had great people around him. He’s going to be a special player at some point and we got a flash of that tonight.”
The Comets put up 287 yards of offense, just 27 fewer than Jersey Shore’s 314, but came up empty four separate times in which they had the ball inside the 10 – three turnovers and once on downs as the Bulldog defense bent but didn’t break, especially in the second half.
“Turnovers are always the difference. If you don’t win the turnover battle, you don’t win a lot of games,” said Arcangeli. “We weren’t able to hang onto the football when it mattered most and turnovers on downs hurt, too. In these games, you have to try to get points because threes aren’t going to cut it against a team like that.”
Jersey Shore limited Crestwood to just 69 first half yards as the Bulldogs took a 12-7 lead at the half. The Bulldogs received the opening kickoff and put together an impressive 13-play drive in just 3:38 that was capped with a Hayden Packer 2-yard touchdown run to take a 6-0 lead. Jersey Shore converted a pair of third downs and a fourth down on that drive.
Early in the second quarter, the Bulldogs coughed it up in their own territory, giving Crestwood the ball at the Bulldog 31. It would be Jersey Shore’s only turnover of the game, but the Comets took advantage as Schultz got loose for a 20-yard run on the sixth play of the drive to give the Comets a 7-6 lead.
The Bulldogs were forced to punt on their ensuing drive after going three-and-out, but just as Crestwood looked to be seizing some momentum after taking over at midfield, a high snap and fumble was recovered by Jersey Shore, and three plays later, Owen Anderson took a jet sweep 39 yards around the right flank with no defenders anywhere near him after he turned the corner.
Trailing by just one score and receiving the second half kickoff, Crestwood appeared headed to retaking the lead as it went from its own 13 all the way down to the Jersey Shore 9-yard line, but Kaleb Benjamin, who had gained 39 yards on the drive, was stuffed at the line and fumbled, giving it to the Bulldogs at their own 15.
From there, Jersey Shore once again took advantage, as they went 85 yards, capped by a 42-yard touchdown pass from Branden Wheary to Anderson, who caught a short slant with the Comets’ defenders giving him room underneath, and did the rest himself to put the Bulldogs up 19-7.
“You want to make them earn it all the way down the field, so we had to respect their speed and be smart with that,” said Arcangeli. “They like to go deep so they adjusted well and threw it underneath and guys made plays. We put our guys out there to do their best and in position to have success but their guys made a few more plays than we did. It’s not a lack of effort but we’ve got to respect their game so that’s why we played off their receivers.”
The Comets then put together a long drive of their own as they went 11 plays but it stalled on the Jersey Shore 4 when Schultz’s fourth down pass sailed just out of the reach of his intended receiver. Crestwood scored on its next possession as they benefited from a pass interference penalty and then Schultz went in from 18 yards for his second touchdown of the game early in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 19-14.
Jersey Shore then chewed up over four minutes on the clock before its drive stalled at the Crestwood 16. The Comets took over but three plays later on third-and-16, Schultz’s pass over the middle was picked off by Peacock, who returned it to the Crestwood 15, and two plays later, Cameron Allison punched it in to make it a two-score game once again with just over three minutes left.
“We emphasized the run game a little bit more with Cam in some of those spots tonight and added a new wrinkle a few weeks ago in the running game and thought it would pay dividends tonight and it did,” said Gravish.
The Comets managed to make things interesting as they got the ball all the way to the Jersey Shore 1 with about a minute to go as Schultz completed a 38-yard pass to Jimmy Hawley, who was tackled just shy of the goal line. But two plays later, Schultz was picked off again in the end zone.
For Jersey Shore, it has been a remarkable turnaround for a program that routinely had zero, one or two-win seasons prior to Gravish taking over the program in 2012. After an initial winless season in his first year, Gravish has guided the Bulldogs to the District 4 Class 3A or 4A championship game in seven of the last eight seasons, with the Bulldogs winning the last three district titles as well as in 2013 and 2016. The program seemingly peaked with its state semifinal appearance last year, falling to eventual state runner-up Dallas, and now the Bulldogs will look to take it one step further and make it to Hershey when they face District 3 champion Lampeter-Strasburg next week.
“Our players have done everything we’ve asked of them, all the way back to March and even before that when we started offseason workouts in January. These guys had high expectations after losing to Dallas last year and wanted to have another chance,” said Gravish.
Jersey Shore 26, Crestwood 14
Jersey Shore (9-0) 6 6 7 7 – 26
Crestwood (8-1) 0 7 0 7 – 14
8:22 – (JS) Hayden Packer 2-yard run (kick failed), 13-65, 3:38
8:01 – (C) Noah Schultz 20-yard run (Shudak kick), 6-31, 2:45
5:19 – (JS) Owen Anderson 39-yard run (pass failed), 3-43, :59
7:02 – (JS) Owen Anderson 42-yard pass from Branden Wheary (Allison kick), 7-85, 2:00
9:53 – (C) Noah Schultz 18-yard run (Shudak kick), 7-44, 2:41
3:14 – (JS) Cameron Allison 10-yard run (Allison kick), 2-15, :54
First downs 15 16
Rushes-net yards 33-153 44-185
Passing yardage 161 102
Passing 11-19-1-0 8-16-0-2
Fumbles-lost 1-1 3-2
Penalties-yards 4-42 5-23
RUSHING: Jersey Shore: Cameron Allison (20-76-1), Hayden Packer (7-39-1), Branden Wheary (3-1), Owen Anderson (2-38-1), TEAM (1-(-1)); Crestwood: Noah Schultz (22-136-2), Jimmy Hawley (12-7), Kaleb Benjamin (9-50), TEAM (1-(-8))
PASSING: Jersey Shore: Branden Wheary (11-19-161-1-0); Crestwood: Noah Schultz (8-16-102-0-2)
RECEIVING: Jersey Shore: Cayden Hess (7-77), Owen Anderson (4-84-1); Crestwood: Brenden DeMarzo (3-28), Jimmy Hawley (1-38), Marcus Vieney (1-22), Paul Feisel (1-12), Nick Kreuzer (1-1), Alex Romanoski (1-1)
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