Tom Gravish and Shanon Manning stood at opposite ends of the field, talking to their respective teams after Gravish’s Jersey Shore Bulldogs defeated Manning’s Bellefonte Red Raiders.
Gravish rallied his team, professing a message of going 1-0 every week, and this was no different. Starting Sunday, the team would be 0-0 again heading into their matchup with Selinsgrove.
For Manning, the message was about getting better and learning from the 55-35 loss to the Bulldogs.
The two coaches know each other well. They’ve coached head-to-head six years in a row, with Gravish and the Bulldogs winning four of the six. Prior to that, Manning was an assistant on Gravish’s coaching staff at Bellefonte in 1999.
Gravish said he and Manning were always friends, even though they only coached together for one season.
“He does a good job here,” Gravish told the Centre Daily Times. “He’s a pretty dedicated coach. I see him at the Penn State football clinic and practices every year.”
Manning relished the opportunity to take on his former boss.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Manning said. “Coach Gravish’s teams are always going to be well-coached and play hard. So it’s a great opportunity.”
Gravish and Manning were part of a ceremony honoring the 1999 Bellefonte team prior to Friday night’s game, a team that won the District 6 championship and advanced to the PIAA quarterfinals.
The current Bellefonte coach was happy to see his old players and coach, but had a difficult time enjoying it as much as he could have because of the result.
“It was great to see the ‘99 team,” Manning said. “I saw a lot of faces I haven’t seen in a lot of years. You know, that was a special team, but it’s dampened a little bit.”
Gravish embraced the opportunity to reunite with his 1999 team.
“I had goosebumps all day,” he said. “To meet these guys again, some of them coming all the way from Georgia and all over the place, and to see them again, it’s pretty emotional.”
The reunion of the 1999 team, and the matchup of the two former colleagues, was marked by the debut of the finished version of the new Rogers Stadium.
Fans packed the stands to see the first season opener at the new stadium and were loud early and often in support of the Red Raiders. Manning took notice of the crowd, and appreciated its support, even with the team’s unsuccessful night.
“It was great and I enjoyed it,” he said. “It was a great community turnout and the community backed us. I wish we would’ve performed a little bit better for them, but you know, this happens. I take full responsibility for that as a head coach.”
According to Gravish, the turf field and track were built by a Jersey Shore construction crew, and he said it was only right that a Jersey Shore team won the first game on the finished field.
“We said it was made by Jersey Shore people and it was meant to be won on by a Jersey Shore football team,” he said.
With the emotional nature of the night, Gravish was grateful for the support of his players.
“I just want to thank our players,” he said. “They gave me a chance to get through an emotional type of thing. You don’t know how to play it. People want you to be out there pregame and you’re not used to that, but you definitely want to do it for the guys you coached in 1999. I owe it to our players and coaches.”