SHIPPENSBURG >> It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.
While maybe a cliché phrase, it’s one that perfectly describes Shippensburg senior Alex Sharrow. Listed at 5-feet, 5-inches and 135 pounds, Sharrow is known for his speed and big play ability.
But after Ship’s 42-35 win over Solanco in the first round of the District 3 Class 5A Playoffs on Friday night, grit and toughness may just be added to the list of his attributes.
Sharrow was the spark for the Greyhound offense all night, totaling over 240 yards to help Shippensburg overcome a third-quarter deficit and defeat the Golden Mules to move on to the second round. The No. 3 Hounds will host No. 11 Exeter Township next Friday at 7 after Exeter beat William Penn, 42-7.
“Everyone is looking for big guys to make big play,” Sharrow said. “Our line was making good blocks all night, and I was just able to get out in the open field and make some plays.”
After a 23-yard touchdown pass from Zack Manning to Isaiah Houser, Shippensburg (11-0) took a 28-14 lead with 43 seconds left in the second quarter. But the Golden Mules, who end their season at 5-6, used a trick play to score right before the half and scored 21 unanswered points to take a 35-28 lead with just over a minute left in the third quarter.
Solanco coach Tony Cox said, “It’s the mentality of our kids, they just don’t give up and keep fighting. It’s become the culture. This year, especially, they just kept digging and trying to get out of holes. It’s a great group.”
But after running for over 110 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, Sharrow was not going to be denied.
On the very first play of the following drive, Sharrow took a pitch on the left side and went 80 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 35. He looked to be trapped after a gain of about 50 yards down the sideline, but broke through a tackle to score and get the momentum back for the Hounds. Sharrow finished the game with 9 carries for 244 yards and three touchdowns, including a 90-yard score in the first quarter that gave Ship a 13-0 lead.
Said Sharrow, “I came up on that run and was able to stiff arm that guy out of bounds and keep pushing for our team. Nick (Gustafson) plowed a guy over to get me in open space, and I was able to make a play.”
Said Ship coach Eric Foust, “Alex is a tough kid. You look at him and may not think that, but he is one tough guy. He played hard and was really a spark for us tonight.”
Thanks to a big kickoff return, Solanco started its next drive on the Shippensburg 26, but on a 4th & 3 from the Shippensburg 7, Derek Kunkleman made a diving tackle on a pitch to the left side to stop the Golden Mules and force a turnover on downs.
Starting from their own eight-yard-line, Sharrow and the Greyhounds went back to work. Sharrow started the drive with a 27-yard run. He added carries of 13 and 10 yards as well, breaking multiple tackles on each run, and Jacob Loy broke off a 17-yarder to put Shippensburg at the 20. And after a run for a loss, Manning threw a corner route to Gustafson, who rose above the Solanco corner to secure the 22-yard touchdown and a 42-35 lead.
“He does that week in and week out for us,” Manning said of Gustafson. “My goal is to just put the ball in a place for him to make a play.”
But Solanco wasn’t going to go away easy. Starting from its own 33, quarterback Grady Unger hit Ryan Smith for 21 yards to get the drive started and running back Nick Yannutz broke off some big runs to give the Golden Mules a 1st & Goal at the Shippensburg 9 with no timeouts left.
After a loss of one on a first down run out of bounds, Unger threw an incomplete pass to bring up third down with 14 seconds left. Yannutz got the carry on 3rd down and was tackled at the four, and with time winding down, Solanco rushed to the line and spiked the ball, not realizing that was fourth down. The play resulted in a turnover on downs, and Shippensburg took a knee to end the game.
Said Solanco coach Tony Cox, “The kids just played hard and never gave up. It came down to who made the least number of mistakes, and unfortunately, we made one more than they did.”
Manning had another strong night passing, completing 6 of 7 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns. He also added one rushing touchdown.
“We knew they would focus on Jake (Loy) and try to take away the middle,” Manning said. “After the first pass play, I noticed how well the offensive line was protecting. Once we figured that out, we just tried to exploit what we could.”
For Solanco, Yannutz finished with 128 yards on 29 carries, and Unger added 53 rushing yards and 117 through the air. Ronnie Fulton ran nine times for 64 yards, caught one pass for 47 yards and scored three total touchdowns. Shippensburg out-rushed Solanco 275-266, despite the Golden Mules running 67 times, compared to just 25 for Ship.
GREYHOUNDS 42, GOLDEN MULES 35
Solanco 0 21 14 0 – 35
Shippensburg 13 15 7 7 – 42
Sh — Alex Sharrow 25 run (Rob West kick), 10:49
Sh — Sharrow 90 run (Kick failed), 1:05
So — Grady Unger 17 run (Trent McDowell kick), 11:54
Sh — Zack Manning 1 run (West kick) 8:36
So — Ronnie Fulton 5 run (McDowell kick), 3:08
Sh — Isaiah Houser 23 pass from Manning (Max Kalb run) 0:43
So — Fulton 9 run (McDowell kick), 0:11
So — Fulton 13 run (McDowell kick), 6:34
So — Fulton 47 pass from Unger (McDowell kick), 1:17
Sh — Sharrow 80 run (West kick), 0:55
Sh — Nick Gustafson 22 pass from Manning (West kick), 3:18
First Downs: So 14; Sh 10. Rushes-yards: So 66-261; Sh 25-275. Passing: So 3-4-0; Sh 6-7-0. Passing Yards: So 117; Sh 137. Penalties-yards: So 2-20; Sh 1-5. Punts-yards: So 1-41; Sh 3-36.3. Fumbles-lost: So 2-1; Sh 0-0.
Rushing: Solanco, Nick Yannutz 29-128, Fulton 9-64, Under 21-53, Rashawn Carter 7-15, Mason St. Clair 1-6; Shippensburg, Sharrow 9-244, Jacob Loy 8-19, Manning 3-12, Max Kalb 3-9, Houser 1-4, Delonte Wilson 1-(-13).
Passing: Solanco, Unger 3-4-0, 117 yards; Shippensburg, Manning 6-7-0, 137 yards.
Receiving: Solanco, St. Clair 1-49, Fulton 1-47, Ryan Smith 1-21; Shippensburg, Houser 3-64, Gustafson 2-48, Loy 1-25.