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Jersey Shore football preview

Written by: on Friday, August 22nd, 2008. Follow Kim Moerschbacher on Twitter.

 

JERSEY SHORE – With its first trip back to the District IV championship game in nearly 10 years, the Jersey Shore Bulldogs were feeling pretty good last season. 

 This year’s version of the orange and black aren’t feeling too bad, either.

The Bulldogs – who will begin this year in the Pennsylvania Heartland Athletic Conference – boasted a tough defense in 2007 with a much-improved offense. Steve Eck’s squad this season has some of those same characteristics. The orange and black have a healthy senior class of 22, all of whom were playmakers last year and hope to continue that trend this season.

“Our group of seniors had a lot of success last year playing, particularly on the offensive line. Defensively, we really only lost Skyler Wool. So, we’re looking for big things from both sides. This group of seniors has a lot of talent, and with the combination of the juniors, hopefully we can make something happen.”

Shore’s 2007 might have ended a little sour with a loss to Selinsgrove in the district title tilt, but the remainder of the season was pretty sweet.

Thrilling wins over Shamokin and Athens highlighted the year, as did a postseason semifinal victory over Columbia-Montour Vo-Tech. Now, it will be up to this year’s kids to repeat that same success.

Filling the vacant spot at quarterback left by Derek Smith will be Taylor English, who moves up from the JV team.

Smith was a verstatile signalcaller capable of making those long passes and finding holes in the line to burst through. While English might not have that same speed or experience on varsity, Eck feels that he is ready for the challenge.

“It looks like Taylor English will be our quarterback. Heás looked really good during the summertime,” Eck said. “He doesn’t have any varsity experience, but he played a lot of JV last year and has really grown up this summer. We’ll have good things offensively.

“We kept everything the same on offense for him. Last year, where Taylor got himself in trouble with the JV team was that he wasn’t making the reads. He was coming out and trying to throw the home run ball all the time. This year, he has come out and realized that you throw to the guy that is open and you look at the guy you are supposed to look at. I’m real pleased with him. He worked hard in the weight room, and the kids really have a lot of confidence in him.”

English’s targets will vary as the season goes, but look for wide receiver Eli Skinner to be on the end of some of those passes. Kyle Myers, Ian Berry, Jake Potter and Kasey Kemmerer may also see the ball in their hands as well. Kemmerer and Jason Bartges saw the ball a combined 22 times last year.

Also returning in 2008 is running back Jaron Smithgall, Shore’s leading rusher last season. He accumulated 758 yards on 178 carries with six touchdowns.

“Defensively, we are in pretty good shape, too,” Eck said. “We have all our our defensive backs returning. We had three senior linebackers that graduated, so we’re looking for some kids to step in there and do the job for us. But we’re feeling pretty good there.”

Defensively, Shore has some kids on the line that have valuable experience under their belts.

Five seniors – Logan Mariano, Berry, Kemmerer, Kyle Stabley and Clark Thompson – racked up the tackles last year. Stabley had 65 tackles – 45 unassisted – while the other four had a combined 120-plus takedowns.

As mentioned above, the Heartland Conference debuts this season, and features 25 schools from seven different counties. Mount Carmel and Southern Columbia are two new opponents for Shore, which are in Division I. The Bulldogs will host Southern Sept. 12, and will travel to The Silver Bowl to square off with Mount Carmel on Oct. 10.

“The schedule change is kind of exciting,” Eck said. “We are switching around and playing Central Mountain first. It’s become a little more of a rivalry with us beating them up there two years ago, and then they beat us up here last year in a close game. Being at Lock Haven University is kind of a neutral site, so we’re pretty excited about opening the season up there. With the addition of Southern and Mount Carmel, as well are our matchups with Danville and Montoursville and Selinsgrove, there is some newness to it.”

Along with Southern, Jersey Shore’s other home games will be Athens, Mifflinburg, Milton and Selinsgrove. The orange and black will travel to LHU, Shikellamy, Montoursville, Mount Carmel and Danville. The Bulldogs’ homecoming is Oct. 17 against Milton.

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