Thanks to Mother Nature, it was Monday Night Football at Thompson Street Stadium when Bald Eagle Area and Jersey Shore hooked up in their annual battle.
With Jersey Shore hanging onto a four-point lead at the turn for home, the Bulldogs turned things on offensively down the stretch in a 28-10 final over the Eagles.
“I have been through a few games like that, but not too many,” said Shore coach Tom Gravish. “Those guys on the other side, Jesse (BEA head coach Nagle) are doing a great job up there. If they continue on that same path, they are going to do extremely well in the future. They are well-coached and well-disciplined and it reminded me of some of the good, old fashioned BEA football that I saw before. They have tough kids and they played hard, but we have some tough kids too. Give them credit because they did an outstanding job.”
While Gravish was happy with the win, Nagle felt the game was one that might have gotten away from his players.
“Games like this one has sort of been our Mojo,” said Nagle. “We have had games where we had opportunity after opportunity, but for some reason, just couldn’t turn the corner. Even in this game, up until midway through the fourth quarter, we were right there. We would get ourselves in a position to make a play, then they would make a play. It seems like I harp on it all the time, but when a kid is in position to make a play, he has to make the play. We (the coaches) can’t make the plays for them.”
The Eagles struck first and early in the game, after two plays only netted them four yards, when running back Austin Young bolted for a 64-yard touchdown less than two minutes into the game.
“There are little things offensively that we have to work on,” Nagle said. “We have to do things to score more. You can’t score on just the first drive and then that is it.”
With their backs pinned to the wall in the shadows of their own end zone, the Eagles surrendered a safety to cut their lead to 7-2.
Four minutes in the second period, Shore got its first of four touchdowns when quarterback Elijah Shemory hit tight end Tyler Smith for a 4-yard scoring strike, but the Eagles came right back, taking advantage of good field position with Blake Roberts splitting the uprights for a 32-yard field goal to give the Eagles a 10-8 lead at the break.
“We missed a couple of scoring opportunities in the first half that really hurt, but give them credit because they got the field goal to put them ahead at halftime,” said Gravish.
Shore took the lead for keeps when Shemory connected with Kevin Titus for a five-yard scoring strike with 4:33 remaining before the turn for home.
With BEA unable to generate any consistent offensive punch for the final 16-plus minutes of the game, Shore gave itself some separation on a Shemory-to-Hunter Frantz TD connection covering 12 yards before sophomore running back Kyle Tomb capped his outstanding game when he bolted up the middle untouched for 16 yards to set the final.
For the game, Tomb was the Shore workhorse as he carried the ball 30 times for 123 yards and the one score.
Normally putting a lot of balls in the air with its potent passing attack, Shemory only threw a half dozen passes in the first half with Tomb doing most of the leg work.
“We wanted to try to run the ball a little bit more,” Gravish said about the Bulldogs offensive approach in the first half. “We wanted to work on our run game and we are going to continue to work on that. We should get a few of our players back next week. It was a hard-fought game you have to give them (BEA) a lot of credit. I told our guys they are tough kids up there and that they would come here to play hard.”
Both teams will close out the regular season Friday night, with Jersey Shore visiting Malinak Stadium for its battle with neighboring Central Mountain, while BEA will make the short trip across the Valley to Rogers Stadium for its annual fray with Bellefonte.