Sometimes the final score on the scoreboard doesn’t indicate how the football game unfolded.
That was pretty much the case in Friday night’s season-opener between Bellefonte and Jersey Shore at Thompson Street Stadium.
Although the board at the end of the game read Bulldogs 31, Red Raiders 7 — the game was much closer for much of the 48 minutes.
“That was certainly not a 31-7 ball game,” said Bellefonte coach Shanon Manning. “When we walked into the fourth quarter it was 7-9 and quite honestly I thought we could have been winning the game at that point. When you lose a game, it is on the head coach, so I take full responsibility for some situations we weren’t prepared for and that is 100 percent on me.
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“I can assure you of one thing and that is we will be prepared for next week. They (Shore) are a returning district-champion team, and if they are one of the best Triple-A teams in the state, I think we’ll be OK.”
The Bulldogs scored on their first possession of the season when they engineered a 65-yard, 8-play drive, culminated by a 1-yard touchdown plunge by tailback Levi Lorson. Caleb Koch’s extra point made it 7-0 Bulldogs with 9:09 remaining in the opening period.
Holding the 7-0 lead, the Bulldogs extended their margin to 9-0 when Red Raider Austin Jackson was tackled in the end zone by Zach Miller for a safety following a Bulldog punt that landed inside the Bellefonte 1.
Down nine, the Raiders had a couple of opportunities during the final 7:24 of the first half when they recovered a Shore fumble and picked off a Logan English pass. In both cases, however, the Bulldogs’ defense stiffened to preserve the 9-0 lead at the break.
“We have an inexperienced team and for that (not able to score) to happen, it was rough,” said Manning. “When you get those breaks, you need to convert those mistakes into points, but truth be told, we are a very young and inexperienced team. There is nothing about their effort that I am not proud about.”
After the break, the Raiders some fight as they battled to cut their deficit to 9-7 when they marched 76 yards on 10 plays, with Dillon Kephart ripping off a 9-yard run to pay dirt. Matt Feldman converted the extra point for Bellefonte.
“I am really proud of the way the kids played after halftime when they went right down the field and scored,” Manning said. “We had some problems getting some continuity going again and part of that is with the staff just getting together.
“This is our first year for this staff to be together and we have to get things ironed out and get to know each other better. But again, I don’t question the kids effort, their integrity or their will to play the game. If you don’t question those three things I think we have a huge upside.”
Following an exchange of punts, Jersey’s Shore’s experience and depth began to show as the Bulldogs tallied three touchdowns in 4 1/2 minutes and never looked back.
“We came out offensively and took some risks and threw a pick, but everybody in the park knew we were going to throw the football,” said Manning. “We wanted to take a shot to get back in the ball game and that is what it is all about. We didn’t come down here to lose or play close. We came down here to win the football game, we are going to take shots at the end and that is how we are going to play all year.”
The Raiders had one last-ditch opportunity to get on the scoreboard with their second score, but following an acrobatic catch-and-run by Nick Jabco for 52 yards, the Red Raiders marched inside the Bulldog 20 before Jersey Shore’s defense stiffened again.
For Jersey Shore, the victory marked the first time since 2000 the Bulldogs won their season opener — by blanking Bald Eagle Area 28-0. While the win marked a positive note for the Bulldogs, the loss extended the Raiders’ losing skid to 18 games over the past three seasons.
Bellefonte travels to Huntingdon next Friday.