Shikellamy over Athens
SUNBURY – Over the last several years, District 4 3A (now 4A after the class expansion) has been largely dominated by Selinsgrove and lately Jersey Shore, as those programs have combined to win the district title in all but two seasons since 2004.
One of those two seasons was 2010, when Shikellamy won the district title. That was also the last time the Braves won a district playoff game – until Friday night.
The top-seeded Braves ensured that the road to the district title would go continue to go through Sunbury as they turned in a dominant defensive performance and also got some big plays on special teams to top Athens 41-7 in a district semifinal. The Braves will play Selinsgrove, a 14-7 winner over Jersey Shore in the other semifinal, next week for the district championship.
“We made some plays in the passing game and things just really snowballed,” said Shikellamy coach Todd Tilford. “I’m really proud of the way our guys came out of the gate. They were very excited to be home and playing a different opponent and I’m so proud of how they played. I was really happy to see us make some connections in the passing game, which we’re going to have to do next week.”
Shikellamy threw the ball just six times but completed five passes, three of which were for touchdowns. Starting quarterback Gabe Tilford was a perfect 3-of-3 for 94 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The stat sheet didn’t tell the entire story, though, as one could have guessed based solely on the stat sheet without looking at a scoring summary or drive chart, that it was a close game. It was not, and aside from Shikellamy’s offensive efficiency, its defense and special teams were the other main reasons for the lopsided score.
Thanks to its defense and special teams, the Braves only ran two of their 27 first half offensive plays from their side of the field, and one of those was a kneel-down to end the half. Shikellamy scored on its first four possessions. For the game, the Braves had just one more first down in the game than the Wildcats, 10-9, but eight of those nine first downs for Athens came in the second half after they already trailed 41-0 at the half. Shikellamy also blocked a pair of Athens punts, one of which was returned for a touchdown.
“We knew they had blocked some punts and we knew how they were doing it but we didn’t execute,” said Athens coach Jack Young. “It took a little frustration for guys to correct each other and get it done but it is what it is. The kids never quit and showed a lot of character.”
Athens was only outgained by 57 yards in the game, 202-145. However, the Wildcats were held to just 42 yards in the first half, as Shikellamy bottled up Athens’ powerful rushing attack with Zack Jayne, who entered the game with over 2000 rushing yards on the season and 33 touchdowns. He had just 13 yards in the first half on 11 carries and finished the game with 54 yards on 17 carries, 39 of which came on Athens’ only scoring drive of the game late in the third quarter, which he capped with a three-yard touchdown run.
“We were able to bottle him up in the middle. Our linebackers have been playing well all year and they keep improving,” said Tilford. “They faced a really good runner tonight and they did what they had to do.”
Athens picked up a first down on its first possession of the game but didn’t get another one until until late in the third quarter on its scoring drive, which was also the first time it crossed midfield all game. The Wildcats were forced to punt after picking up that first down on its first drive and the punt was partially blocked and went just five yards, giving the Braves possession at the Athens 28. Shikellamy needed just four plays to score on a seven-yard run by Gabe Tilford.
Athens’ next drive produced three straight plays of negative yardage and a 28-yard punt set up the Braves at the Athens 47. Three plays later, Gabe Tilford found his younger brother Lucas Tilford on a crossing route for a 49-yard touchdown reception to put the Braves up 14-0.
On the Wildcats’ first play from scrimmage of their next drive, quarterback Kaden Rude made a nice play to escape a sack but then threw an ill-advised pass that was intercepted by Gabe Tilford to set up the Braves at the Athens 42. Shikellamy then needed just five plays to score again, this time on a three-yard run by Joey Folk.
Rude was then knocked out of the game with what appeared to be an arm injury on a carry on the Wildcats’ ensuing possession, which ended with another three-and-out and a punt. That led to Tilford’s second touchdown pass of the game on the Braves’ next possession, this one a 23-yard toss to Hunter Dodge to put the Braves up 27-0 early in the second quarter.
Later in the quarter, Tilford scooped up the blocked punt by Josh Krieger and ran it back 33 yards for another score to put Shikellamy up 34-0 midway through the quarter. Second-string quarterback Tate Krankoskie guided Shikellamy to another scoring drive, this one starting from the Athens 28 after a 30-yard punt return by Dodge, finishing it with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Krieger.
“We gave it away a little bit with turnovers and a blocked punt and those things mostly didn’t happen to us this year,” said Young. “I think we had one bad snap on a punt until tonight but at the same time, they’re a better football team than us, especially tonight, and my hat’s off to them and we wish them the best of luck.
“It’s a good group of seniors that accomplished a lot and the things that our offense did with Zack Jayne – those are some special, crazy numbers that he put up and it was because of a good team effort. They’re a special group of kids and we’re going to miss these seniors.”
For Shikellamy, it will host its cross-river rival Selinsgrove next week. The Braves narrowly defeated the Seals 28-26 back in Week 4 at home, en route to the Heartland Athletic Conference Division I championship, as they finished unbeaten in HAC I play.
“We’re happy to be hosting a final. These kids have been waiting to play in a big game like this. It’s really exciting for our kids and our program and for the whole community,” said Tilford.
Shikellamy 41, Athens 7
Athens (8-3) 0 0 7 0 – 7
Shikellamy (9-2) 20 21 0 0 – 41
7:28 – (S) Gabe Tilford 7-yard run (Jon Gittens kick), 4-28, 1:16
4:21 – (S) Lucas Tilford 49-yard pass from Gabe Tilford (Gittens kick), 3-47, 1:07
2:17 – (S) Joey Folk 3-yard run (kick failed), 5-42, 1:44
10:55 – (S) Hunter Dodge 23-yard pass from Gabe Tilford (Gitten kick), 4-37, 1:29
6:19 – (S) Gabe Tilford 33-yard blocked punt return (Gittens kick)
2:48 – (S) Josh Krieger 9-yard pass from Tate Krankoskie (Gittens kick), 6-28, 2:21
1:36 – (A) Zack Jayne 3-yard run (Aric Westbrook kick), 5-55, 2:36
First downs 9 10
Rushes-net yards 36-107 32-95
Passing yardage 38 107
Passing 4-8-0-1 5-6-3-0
Fumbles-lost 6-1 0-0
Penalties-yards 3-12 7-40
RUSHING: Athens: Zack Jayne (17-54-1), Damien Hudson (10-50), Aric Westbrook (3-4), Nick Watkins (2-(-1)), Kaden Rude (2-(-1)), Dawson Leiser (1-2), David Galasso (1-(-1)); Shikellamy: Joey Folk (10-37-1), Gabe Tilford (7-34-1), Lucas Tilford (3-13), Jermez Herring (3-8), Joel Derr (3-3), Ulysses Mercado (2-3), Duncan Weir (2-(-3)), Nate Minnier (1-1), TEAM (1-(-1))
PASSING: Athens: Aric Westbrook (3-6-23-0-0), Kaden Rude (1-2-15-0-1); Shikellamy: Gabe Tilford (3-3-94-2-0), Tate Krankoskie (2-3-13-1-0)
RECEIVING: Athens: Keegan Rude (3-23), Matt Robbins (1-15); Shikellamy: Hunter Dodge (2-45-1), Lucas Tilford (1-49-1), Josh Krieger (1-9-1), Thayne Hummel (1-4)
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