Shippensburg says it is focused for District 3 opponent
By LIZI ARBOGAST, @liziarbogast
Shippensburg is not ready for this particular season to end.
The Greyhounds won their first football title in 24 years; they earned their first ever Mid Penn Colonial Division title; and they had a nearly-perfect 9-1 season.
Now, heading into Friday night’s District 3 Class AAA opening-round playoff game against Spring Grove, Ship wants to continue making history.
“All of our guys are still focused on football,” Greyhound leading rusher William Burt said. “It’s not like they’re waiting for the season to be over to play their winter sport. We’re all excited, and we want to do something that hasn’t been done here.”
Burt is the leading member of the “Big Three,” which includes Tyrell Kater and Tony Johnson. As the leader of the pack, Burt reached 1,000-plus yards last week against Gettysburg, and he has 12 touchdowns this season.
“William is a great back at keeping people honest,” Shippensburg head coach Eric Foust said. “You can’t take away our outsides too much because William runs so hard inside. He makes you play the whole field, and he’s a nice weapon to have combined with the other two.”
One thing working in Shippensburg’s favor with be the reunion of the Big Three. Johnson is making his re-emergence after recovering from the flu.
“This is the best he’s felt going into the week,” Foust said. “He’s excited to play. He’s from the York area originally, so this is a pretty big game to him. By Friday, he’ll be 100 percent.”
In just 7 1/2 games, Johnson has managed 607 yards on 67 carries and nine touchdowns. The final member, Kater, has 899 rushing yards and 194 yards through the air. He has totaled 14 touchdowns.
“That’s a big deal for us to have all three weapons running in three different directions,” Foust said.
To have 2,500-plus yards between three running backs is impressive in and of itself, but all three agree a lot of credit should be given to the offensive line, which is arguably the strongest in the area.
“The way they play together and get along and the way they communicate is something I haven’t seen before,” Foust said. “I attribute a lot of that to our offensive line coach (Chris) Debias. He spends a lot of time with them, and they spend a lot of time together, and that’s probably their biggest strength.”
The high-powered offense is averaging more than 31 points per game, but Spring Grove (7-3) isn’t too far off with an average of 28.1 ppg.
The Rockets’ biggest threat is junior Jeff DeLaughter who has more than 1,200 yards on the ground. Their quarterback, senior Matt Runge, is also a dual-threat with nearly 700 rushing yards and more than 800 through the air.
“We just do whatever it takes to win,” Spring Grove coach Russ Stoner said. “We throw it as much as we run it. We’ll do whatever the defense gives us the opportunity to do.”
Ship has a pretty good handle on what it needs to be aware of.
“We know that they’re a spread-type offense, and we know what kind of defense they run,” Johnson said. “They have some quick guys and some guys that can make big plays, but we also have that, too, so we’re in the same boat.”
Although Ship’s defense has improved greatly throughout the season – not allowing more than 20 points in a game since Week 4 – this game has all the make ups of being an offensive shoot out.
“Thus far, we’re going to do what we do offensively; I don’t see us changing much for them,” Foust said. “Defensively, we’re going to have to change enough to be able to align to them because they run some exotic formations. We just have to play good, solid, disciplined defense.”
The only change Ship may make this week is the Hounds have plans to pass the ball a bit more tonight.
Junior Seth Frey has been the biggest surprise of Ship’s team this year, according to Foust. He has almost 1,000 yards through the air already, and that is very atypical of the Hounds in recent memory.
“Our passing game has improved in large part because of Seth and (leading receiver) Britton (Hastings),” Foust said. “They do a great job as a tandem, throwing and catching the ball, and that’s really helped. As the year has gone on, I think our passing attempts per game has gone up just because of the confidence we have in Seth as a quarterback.”
Because Ship is known as a run-first offense, it only makes sense the Hounds may want to change things up to keep the Rockets on their toes.
“We might open things up a little bit,” Burt said. “With Tony Johnson coming back, that’ll be a huge help for (Kater) and me, but hopefully, we can open the field up a little bit more and pass a little bit, too.”
Regardless of which strategy Ship decides to implement, the Greyhounds have plans to come out and do whatever they can to win.
“Everybody knows it’s playoff time; it’s win or go home,” Ship co-captain Robbie Keyes said. “With the group of guys that we have now, everybody knows what to do.”
Lizi Arbogast can be reached at 262-4788 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rockets-Hounds at a glance
Game data: Spring Grove Rockets at Shippensburg Greyhounds … Today, 7 p.m., at Shippensburg’s Memorial Park … District 3 Class AAA opening round playoff game.
Teams: Shippensburg is 9-1 after beating Gettysburg, 35-6, in the final week of the season … Spring Grove is 7-3 after losing its final game to South Western, 19-17.
Series: First meeting.
Media: Follow @PO_Christi for live tweets from the game. Radio- WI00 (1480 AM, 93.9 FM) Webcast – www.sesportsnet.com.
P.O. pick: Shippensburg by 14.