- February 8, 2023
Historical records do not indicate the amount of pre-match interest or community chatter that may have existed in the days leading up to the Biblical confrontation between David & Goliath, but Friday night’s match-up between Class A Canton and AAAA powerhouse Jersey Shore has been the talk of the town among area football fans in
Historical records do not indicate the amount of pre-match interest or community chatter that may have existed in the days leading up to the Biblical confrontation between David & Goliath, but Friday night’s match-up between Class A Canton and AAAA powerhouse Jersey Shore has been the talk of the town among area football fans in recent weeks.
Although small in enrollment size, Canton, the state’s number one ranked Class A team, has much more talent and firepower going for it than David possessed with his mighty slingshot. In football terminology, Jersey Shore has indeed been a Goliath to the mercy-rules opponents it has chewed up as Pennsylvania’s 3rd-ranked AAAA team. Going into last week’s game against Montoursville, the Bulldogs had mercy-ruled its first seven opponents by halftime, outscoring their foes 427-60, with the starting defense not allowing a single point.
Pending the outcome of last Friday’s games, both squads should enter the week nine contest with unblemished 8-0 records, with both having legitimate aims at achieving state championship aspirations.
So the question had to be asked. Why would a Single A school want to schedule a AAAA team or vice versa? To find the answer, we reached out to Canton’s coach Tyler Sechrist and Jersey Shore headman, Tom Gravish. Their responses were as varied as the enrollments of the two schools they represent.
“We had Columbia-Montour Vo-Tech scheduled in the ninth week. We are in the Big-School NTL, and they are in the Small School division. We didn’t have to play each other, and in discussions, both schools agreed to look in other directions this year,” Sechrist explained. “Jersey Shore had an open date that week, and it was intriguing to me. I don’t know if we can compete with them, but we both have good teams and had open dates on our schedules. It is just going to be a one-year deal.
“Our goal is to go further than we did last year. Playing teams like Jersey Shore and Troy at the end of the season, I think, will serve us well and help us to be ready to get to that ultimate goal of a state championship.
“We agreed to the game, and then it got to the point that maybe we bit off a little more than we can chew, and both schools actually began looking at the possibilities of scheduling other people. But the only way we were going to cancel the game would have been if both of us could have found quality opponents to fill that date. I wasn’t going to leave Jersey Shore hanging, and they felt the same about us, so we kept it on the schedule.”
Webb Weekly was thrown for a bit of a loss when contacting Gravish a week before the game seeking comment on the Bulldogs’ side of the scheduling intrigue.
Due to this newspaper’s printing deadline, all copy must be submitted the Friday before its following Wednesday publication date. Attempting to speak with Coach Gravish a few days before last week’s Montoursville game, the usually approachable coach declined to give any comment about the Canton game.
“I’ll be glad to talk about anything you’d like about the Montoursville game. But that is all that is on my mind this week. If you’d like to contact me on Monday, I’ll be glad to talk about Canton. I hope you can understand,” he commented.
I totally understand the one-week-at-a-time rationale that coaches employ to not let their teams look too far down the road or overlook the next opponent. My explanation that comments discussed in our interview wouldn’t be made public until two days before the Canton game failed to change Coach Gravish’s position on the matter.
His position is respected. It would have been interesting to have gained his perspective on this Friday’s visit to Canton. One thing is for sure; there will be a big crowd on hand to take witness.
“There is a lot of buzz around this game, and I believe a lot of people will come see it that have no connection to either school,” Sechrist reasoned. “I joked around, saying that if we were to play this game on a Saturday, we would really have a huge crowd. Friday night in Canton will be jumping, and I hope we can compete with them and make it a good game.
“The community support here has been unbelievable. It has been amazing to see how folks in the community have rallied around the team. Canton football has always been a pretty big deal here, but last year it really exploded and has carried over into this year.
“We have a lot of smart kids that have great football knowledge and know a lot about the game. They’ve been able to have success playing the game since they were young, and when you have success like that, it is a good building block. Having this many kids that know football at a small school like this may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I am blessed to have great coaches around me, and the combination of the two has helped us build the program to where it is today.”
Regardless of the outcome of Friday’s game, both teams have their hopes and dreams set on surpassing last year’s remarkable run in this year’s state tournaments. It is a truly unique scheduling commitment. Hopefully, both will emerge as healthy as when they enter the fray.