As the season goes on and Shippensburg football gets deeper in the District 3 Class 5A Playoffs, every game becomes more important and every team is a new challenge.
And there’s no doubt that when the Greyhounds host Exeter Township on Friday night at 7, it will be their greatest challenge yet.
While the Eagles come into the game as the No. 11 seed with an 8-3 record, they showed their ability with a convincing, 42-14 win over William Penn last week. Shippensburg remained perfect at 11-0 with a thrilling 42-35 win over Solanco.
“We are going to have to play our best, and I think our guys are up to the challenge,” Ship coach Eric Foust said. “They have a lot of weapons all over the field, and they’ve played some better competition than us. I think we have a good chance to prove ourselves this week.”
The Greyhounds came back from a third quarter deficit last week against Solanco and held on late for the win. The Golden Mules were driving inside the 10-yard-line in the final 15 seconds but spiked the ball on fourth down to secure the win for Ship.
Alex Sharrow ran nine times for 244 yards with three touchdowns, and quarterback Zack Manning completed 6 of 7 passes for 137 yards and three total touchdowns to spark the Ship offense. Jacob Loy, the team’s leading rusher with 1,192 yards on 193 carries, was held to just 21 yards on eight carries.
“Solanco made it a point to stop that part of our game last week,” Foust said of Ship’s lack of inside rushing, “but that left things open for Sharrow and the pass game. Our offense has the versatility and weapons to be able to do those things. You may be able to take away one thing, but we don’t think you can shut down everything.”
Exeter Township will be a totally different test for the Ship defense. Last week, Solanco ran the ball 66 total times with its triple option attack. The Eagles, however, rely more heavily on its passing game and quarterback Gavin McCusker.
McCusker has completed 98 of 170 passes for 1,831 yards with 23 touchdowns and just four interceptions. His main receiver, Alax Javier, has 39 catches for 852 yards, a 21.8 yard-per-catch average.
“They will be a test we haven’t really seen defensively this year, but I think we are up to the challenge,” Foust said. “I think we have a good secondary. They just haven’t been tested much this year.”
There is no doubt that Exeter Township will be the biggest test the Greyhounds have faced this season, and they will have to be at their best to advance to the semifinals on Friday.