By: Bill Albright | Towanda Daily Review | September 19, 2015
JERSEY SHORE - When Athens invaded Thompson Street Stadium Friday night for a battle of cats and dogs with Jersey Shore, the game marked the early season clash of two unbeaten teams.
When all of the smoke from the fracas cleared, it was Shore coming out on top as the Bulldogs defeated the Wildcats 28-7 to stay unbeaten in the early going.
"They (Athens) have a great team," said Shore head coach Tom Gravish. "Hats off to coach (Jack) Young and their players, they played hard. The quarterback (Aaron Barry) is one heck of a good player who is strong and has a great arm. They are going to win a bunch of games."
For the second week in a row, the Bulldogs had to shake off a sluggish start before rolling to a win.
"We got some foolish penalties in the first half and we didn't come out very strong," said Gravish. "When you get into first-and-15 or first-and-20 it causes you problems because there aren't too many plays in the book for those situations."
Athens scored on its first possession following a Shore punt, taking over on its own 26-yard line.
From there, quarterback Barry engineered a 74-yard, nine-play drive for the score, Barry connecting with Bill Bennett for the final three yards and the score.
Penalties and an interception continued to plague the Bulldogs until they took over on their own 40-yard line following an Athens punt.
From there, the Bulldogs marched the 60 yards on seven plays, quarterback Travis Bradley connecting with Todd Sanford for the final 28 yards and the score with a mere 16 seconds left on the clock before halftime.
"We struggled handling their pressure and that was one of our worries coming into the game," said Athens head coach Jack Young. "But despite that, I thought we did a lot of good things and defensively I thought we played pretty well. We gave up two big plays at the end of the half. We should have gone in up 7-0, but that is the name of the game."
During the halftime break, Gravish sent a message to his team and it was simple and to the point.
"Let's cut out all of the penalties and all the nonsense because right now, we aren't playing Jersey Shore football," he said. "Right now we aren't playing Jersey Shore football and that is what we want to get back to. We work them pretty hard, and I think we are in good physical condition to play fast. With that happening, the past two weeks we are proud to have scored 28 unanswered points to win."
In the third quarter it was Athens' turn to be bitten by the turnover bug as Barry was picked off twice by Austin Bouse.
"He (Bouse) came out strong and made those two big interceptions," praised Gravish. "He really played hard and on that one interception, he laid right out to haul the ball in. He was close to get one or two more.
Following the first Bouse "pick," the Bulldogs struck quickly as Lorson ripped up the middle and swerved his way for 38 yards and the score. Cameron Griffin tacked on the PAT, and with 6:45 left in the period, the Bulldogs held a 14-7 lead and they never looked back.
With the Wildcats driving deep into Shore territory on their next possession, it was again Bouse who was Johnny on the Spot with his second "pick" to put the brakes on the march.
On the sixth play following the turnover, it was Lorson doing his thing again by ripping up the middle from 15 yards out for the score.
As has been their customary approach to playing the offensive game, the Bulldogs used the no-huddle approach and that might have been a factor in the game, especially in the second half.
"We had some breakdowns in coverage and gave up a few big plays," said Young. "I think they wore us out a little bit and offensively we just got away from executing and doing the things we do well. I thought we were pretty well prepared for their hurry-up offense and other than changing the tempo of the game a little bit, I don't think it really bothered us."
As it had done one week earlier in the win over Shikellamy, the Bulldog defense turned it on down the stretch to hold Athens to five plays or less on five straight possessions.
With the game well in hand, Bryce Charles got into the scoring act for Shore when he exploded up the middle for a 10-yard TD run. Griffin was true with his fourth PAT to set the final.
"We wanted to get Bryce a little more involved running with the ball and tonight, he ran like a guy who was possessed," said Gravish.
Despite the loss, Young is optimistic about his troops bouncing back after suffering their first loss.
"These are good kids and we have a whole bunch of great kids," Young said. "We'll go back to work this week, get rid of the bumps and bruises and there is no doubt in my mind we'll shake it off. I tell them every week that we are going to go up against another well-coached team and Tom (Gravish) and his staff do a great job and right now, they have things rolling. I am happy for them, and I think we could have made this a little better ball game, but the bottom line is that we didn't."
With the win, Shore has now won 15 straight regular season games spanning the past three seasons.