Tip of my Webb Weekly orange hunting hat with the American Flag on the side to Head Coach Tom Gravish and his Jersey Shore Bulldogs. Believe me; there will be more trips in the future to Hershey Park Stadium for the Black and Orange. A tough loss in the State Championship game to perennial-power Thomas Jefferson is just another step to the top of the Pennsylvania pigskin mountain.
What Coach Gravish has built-in Jersey Shore is no one-hit-wonder; it is simply one of the best football programs in the state. If you missed my column last week, “Just What the Doctor Ordered,” please give it a read. I give shout outs to some of this year’s top Dawgs and the amazing season they accomplished. This week I want to talk about the Bulldog family that is the Jersey Shore community.
Jersey Shore folks are tough, hardworking, salt of the Earth people. They love their neck of the woods in western Lycoming County. It is also definitely a place where no matter what you’re coaching, you want the community behind you.
Jersey Shore football has always had those hard-nosed players that would knock the snot out of the opposition. Built Bulldog tough by their parents. In the same breath, they have had great athletes who would sometimes go unnoticed due to the football program’s lack of success. This is where Coach Tom Gravish and his staff have provided just the right teaching, coaching, and leadership to build a football family that is the face of the borough.
The most important thing that needs to happen in any successful high school sports program is the young athletes must believe and buy-in. And I am not just talking about the varsity team; I am talking about the young brothers and boys that hit the field for the first time as a 5-year-old. They just want to wear that Orange and Black like their brothers and their high school heroes that came before them.
This is exactly where the Jersey Shore program success began; after not winning a game in the Bulldog’s first season, they followed it up with a district title the following season. All the hard work of what has become a year-round effort in PA high school football, paid off with a championship.
The Jersey Shore community was hungry for a winner, and Coach Gravish, his staff, and the boys provided that bright spot for everyone that loves the Orange and Black. Anyone that knows folks from Jersey Shore knows their commitment to athletics is very strong. Soon the stands were full of Bulldog lovers at home and away.
Then it becomes like eating potato chips; you can’t just have one. The players worked harder; the fans cheered louder, everyone wants to win that next district championship and be part of the winning Bulldog family.
Since the winless season, Jersey Shore has now gone 70-28 with five district championships and this year’s appearance in Hershey.
What goes unnoticed is the extra commitment and hours that go in from the coaching staff to build that first district title into competing for the crown every year. Just ask any coach’s spouse and family about the time commitment needed in today’s world of coaching or the parents of the players.
This is where I tip my cap to the Jersey Shore Area School District, residents, businesses, and Bulldog fans everywhere for the overwhelming support I’ve witnessed. Those late-night parades through Jersey Shore were amazing. The way the Bulldog boosters and school district got behind the team in recent years shows in the equipment and college swag uniforms the team wears. I love the look of the helmets — the local business community support of the team wholeheartedly, including team meals provided by local restaurants. Shout out to Blake Musser and the great folks at the Gamble Farm Inn for the wings and pizza.
Back to that time commitment required by coaches and players. This pays off in spades when you make a championship run. Especially for the seniors that are wearing the uniform for the last time. What takes this to the next level as a player or coach is the outpouring from the student body and community. That feeling of team, family, and togetherness by all even when your last game might not end the way you want. That feeling of community support at this most difficult time, when the finality of the last game ending with a loss sets in.
Now, here’s the great thing about being part of a true football program. Next season there will be some different young men wearing those numbers on Friday nights at Thompson Stadium. The Bulldog beat will go on, and those who graduated will be cheering their football brothers on. The championship season of this year will live on in legend. And the players of the future will strive to win that very last game of the season. Hopefully, the stands return to being packed to appreciate the effort. I know I’ll be watching.
A special thanks to all area coaches and school districts for welcoming in my staff and me for the live streaming of Friday Night Lights. It has been our pleasure to bring you the action. One thing I can tell you for sure is that we are very blessed with the good folks working with our young athletes. From the coaches, support staff, teachers, and athletic directors, right on to school administration. We have great people that care about our children way beyond what happens on the scoreboard.
God Bless America.