Jersey Shore preview
BILL ALBRIGHT EasternPAFootball.com Senior Writer
JERSEY SHORE — New Jersey Shore head football coach Tom Gravish has a huge task on his hands, but the veteran mentor knew that when he took the job. However, a quick look at Gravish’s track record as a head coach would indicate there seems to be no mountain for Gravish to climb in getting the job done.
After revitalizing the program at East Juniata, Gravish took over a Bellefonte program that finished 0-9 in 1998 and was apparently going nowhere fast. He turned the Red Raiders into an 8-3 playoff team in just one year.
On the heels of turning the Red Raider fortunes around, Gravish left for a bigger challenge as he made his way to Billtown to handle the chores of the Williamsport Millionaires. Again faced with a program that was spinning its wheels, Gravish brought the Millionaires back to a competitive Class AAAA program before making his way up the Susquehanna River Valley to Bulldogland.
“I am really excited about getting with these guys,“ said Gravish. “We have a special group of young men here and we have had a lot of fun so far. I think the town of Jersey Shore is a good place for someone to live or coach in and I am just real happy to be a part of the community and the school system. We are putting the past in the past, looking forward to the future and definitely not looking back in the rear-view mirror.”
The Bulldog program hasn’t had a winning season since 1997 and the Shoremen have only won four games in the past three years. However, Gravish doesn’t look at that as a negative, but rather as a challenge he and his coaching staff are looking at with hopes of turning things around.
“I am really looking forward to it and I have always followed Jersey Shore football for a long time,” said Gravish. “When I was an assistant at Bald Eagle Area and head coach at Bellefonte, I always read the Shore stuff in The Express. I can ask around and especially the people in our league about the Bulldogs and their response is the same. The Shore kids are tough and when you play them you had better be ready for a battle. This year we think we have a tough group and I like working with those kinds of kids.”
Gravish and his assistants have been working with a squad numbering in the 30-35 range, but the low numbers doesn’t phase the veteran mentor about preparing for the upcoming season.
“We have been working with 30-35 and up to 36 when we get everybody cleared and ready to go,” he said. “We have a great group of young men who are extremely coachable and cooperative. They are polite toward each other and although it might not seem to be a big thing, we have a clean locker room and that says something about the type of person we have involved in our program. We are just having a lot of fun.
“Even though the actual number of players is somewhat lower, I think you have to measure what is in the hearts of these kids, not so much if you have a hundred kids,” added Gravish. “If you have 30-plus kids who work hard and like each other, I like our chances of turning this thing around and win some football games this year. I know we (coaches) are going to work as hard as we can to make that happen.”
Having been a successful head coach at Bellefonte, Gravish sees a lot of similarities between the type of athlete he had in Raiderland and the athletes he now has at Shore.
“That is something I tried to emphasize in my interview,” Gravish said. “I thought it was a similar situation to a Bald Eagle Area or Bellefonte and so far, everything I have seen points to that being the case. We are less than two weeks into it, but I am really looking forward to getting it going. We had a good summer, the guys are working real hard and as I said before, we are having a lot of fun with it. If we can play together as a team and be there for each other, have each other’s back, I think we are going to have a successful season.”
Any time a new coach comes into a program with a new system, there is always the question mark of how well and how quickly the athletes adapt and adjust to the new environment.
“I think these kids have adapted to our system real well,” Gravish said. “We started talking about the system as soon as I was hired, you know, how we call things, the terminology and to be honest about it, I think they are having some fun with it. I am real pleased with what we have been able to put in so far. To be real honest about it, I think we are a little bit ahead of where I thought we would be at this point, especially with the terminology.”
As for the possibility of any more candidates coming onto the scene, Gravish said, “There are a couple of guys who just got their physicals and that kind of stuff and right now we are trying to finalize their papers. Hopefully by the time the first game rolls around we’ll be in the mid thirties.”
So where does Gravish see his Bulldogs as they head toward the first game of the season?
“We are trying to be as positive with these kids as we can to move forward,” Gravish said. “We have been positive with us (the coaches) as well, I like how things are going and how the coaching staff is working with each of the groups and I have seen a lot of progress being made beginning with the summer through heat acclimation to where we are right now. If we work together I think we can have a real nice season.”
And how have things off the field been for Gravish and his staff?
“I have been to a couple of games here in the past and their crowds are always exciting to be a part of,” he said. “We sure have had a lot of people give us positive verbal support since I have been here and I have a chance to meet some of the people in the community as well as people in the school system. Mr. (Athletic Director Bill) Mincer has been one heckuva help to us since I have been hired. I am looking forward to the overall challenge and specifically that first game with Troy on August 31.”
Assisting Gravish in his first season will be Alex Jackson (Defensive Coordinator), Bob Lundy (running backs, safeties and special teams) and Tony Cipriani (offensive and defensive line coach).
“Coach Jackson played here and has coached here before and he is truly a Bulldog,” said Gravish. “None of us, even coach Jackson, haven’t been a part of this program in recent years, but we really like what we see. Everybody is working hard and hopefully our efforts will pay off for us.”
The Bulldogs open the 2012 season when they host the Troy Trojans on
August 31 at Thompson Street Stadium. Kickoff for the season opener is listed as 7 p.m.
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