SHIPPENSBURG >> Going into Friday night’s game against Big Spring, the Shippensburg football team had a lot to play for.
At 9-0, the Greyhounds had a chance for their first undefeated season in over 30 years. A win all-but solidified a top-2 finish in the District 3 Class 5A standings, giving them a bye in the first round. It would clinch the Mid Penn Colonial Division title, and it was the Little Brown Jug Game. Admittedly, Ship had a tense week of practice.
But that tension quickly dissipated, as Shippensburg jumped out to a 21-0 lead and cruised to a 40-7 Mid Penn Colonial Victory over the Bulldogs.
“We had a lot to play for tonight, and these guys stepped up to the challenge,” Ship coach Eric Foust said. “This is a great group of kids to coach. They are so coachable, they work hard, and they do all the little things right. They deserved this.”
The Greyhounds, who finish the regular season 10-0 (6-0 MPC) wasted no time getting started, as they needed just five plays to take a 6-0 lead after a 27-yard pass from Zack Manning to Isaiah Houser.
After a punt by the Bulldogs, who finish their season 4-6 (1-5 MPC), Ship used a 12-play drive to go up 14-0, capped off by a 4-yard pass from Manning to Nick Gustafson. On the third play of Big Spring’s next drive, Houser intercepted a tipped pass and took it 12 yards for a touchdown to put the Hounds up 21.
The Greyhounds finished the game with 169 passing yards, as Manning completed 8 of 11 passes and threw for four touchdowns. Over the last two weeks, Manning has completed 14 of 22 passes for 331 yards.
“We know we need to be able to throw the ball to win in the playoffs,” Manning said. “Last year, I was young, and our playoff games were wet and muddy, so we didn’t really throw much, which is understandable. This year, I think we’re going to have that balance and be able to keep the defense guessing.”
Said Foust, “We’ve known all season that we’re capable of this kind of pass game, we just haven’t really been in the situation to use it.”
Gustafson caught a 23-yard pass in the second quarter and finished with five grabs for 92 yards, and Houser finished with three catches and 77 yards with two receiving scores, the latter being a 34-yard catch on a post route to put Ship up 40-0.
Said Gustafson, who was awarded the offensive MVP of the game, “I think this year we will be able to diversify ourselves offensively in the playoffs, and I love it.”
Said Manning about Houser and Gustafson, “Teams can’t cover them both. We have a tall guy in Nick, and Isaiah has the speed, and they both just bring down everything you throw to them.”
After Shippensburg recovered a rolling kickoff that Big Spring couldn’t handle to start the second half, Alex Sharrow scored from five yards out to put the Hounds up 34-0. He finished the game 12 carries for 85 yards and also reached 1,000 yards for the season.
“A lot of people talked about it this week, and I wasn’t trying to worry about it too much. I just wanted to come in and have a good game.
“I don’t really know what to say, it just feels amazing. Our line does such a good job of making blocks and opening up holes for us.”
Big Spring got on the board in the fourth quarter on a 26-yard pass from Jack Shulenberger to Gavin Pritchard, but the offense was otherwise quiet, finishing with just 97 total yards. Shippensburg senior linebacker Mac Cramer was selected as the Defensive MVP after the game.
Barring a significant change in the standings, the Greyhounds will get a week off before hosting a game in the second round of the District 3 Class 5A playoffs. But for now, the Greyhounds will drink their chocolate milk and celebrate a regular season not seen in Shippensburg since 1986.
Said Foust, “These kids have worked hard, and they have earned it. They do all the little things, and that’s what it takes to get here. That’s what they do, and that’s how they play.”
SHIPPENSBURG 40, BIG SPRING 7
Big Spring 0 0 0 7 – 7
Shippensburg 21 6 13 0 – 40
S — Isaiah Houser 27 pass from Zack Manning (Kick failed), 9:48
S — Nick Gustafson 4 pass from Zack Manning (Jacob Loy run), 1:12
S — Isaiah Houser 12 interception return (Rob West kick), 0:32
S — Gustafson 23 pass from Manning (Pass failed), 1:09
S — Alex Sharrow 5 run (Pass failed), 9:43
S — Houser 34 pass from Manning (Blake Orndorff kick), 4:24
BS – Gavin Pritchard 26 pass from Jack Shulenberger (Grant Long kick) 7:14
First Downs: BS 4; S 21. Rushes-yards: BS 24-42; S 43-290. Passing: BS 4-12-1; S 8-11-0. Passing Yards: BS 62; S 169. Penalties-yards: BS 1-5; S 2-25. Punts-yards: BS 5-35; S 1-34. Fumbles-lost: BS 1-1; S 1-1.
Rushing: Big Spring, Nathan Fetchkan 6-31, Grant Long 1-16, Anthony Gaudioso 4-11, Jack Shulenberger 10-(-15); Shippensburg, Loy 15-100, Sharrow 12-85, Max Kalb 3-38, Nathan Beam 5-31, Marshall Albelo 3-28, Blake Orndorff 1-12, Manning 2-(-11).
Passing: Big Spring, Shulenberger 3-10-1, 55 yards, Pritchard 0-1-1, 0 yards; Shippensburg, Manning 8-11-0, 169 yards.
Receiving: Big Spring, Pritchard 1-26, Gaudioso 1-23, Kadin Greene 1-6; Shippensburg, Gustafson 5-92, Houser 3-77.