5 takeaways from Week 6: Southmoreland snaps cold spell

Saturday, October 5, 2019 | 7:56 PM

Southmoreland coach Dave Keefer saw no reason to hide the team’s 40-year playoff drought from his players.

“I said, ‘You weren’t part of the past,’ ” said Keefer, who’s in his second season. “We can’t be embarrassed by what’s happened, but we can change it.”

Consider it changed.

The WPIAL’s longest active postseason drought is guaranteed to end this season after Southmoreland clinched a playoff berth Friday night for the first time since 1979.

The Scotties lost 28-7 to Charleroi, leaving Keefer in no mood to celebrate, but they secured a playoff spot when Brownsville also lost.

“We’ve got that monkey off our backs,” Keefer said, laughing. “It’s nice that we’re not the longest streak now.”

That unwanted distinction falls to Leechburg, which last reached the WPIAL playoffs in 1988. At 2-5 overall, 1-3 in the Class A Eastern Conference, the Blue Devils’ streak seems destined for 31 years.

The next-longest droughts belong to Brownsville (2000) and Carlynton (2001), followed by Uniontown (2009) and Ellwood City (2011).

Keefer, speaking from experience, said those teams shouldn’t lose hope.

“You’ve really got to connect with the kids and get them to believe,” he said. “They have to want it, and you have to make them understand that every other high school kid that they’re playing against is just like them. Southmoreland was beaten down for so many years that nobody believed.”

2. Sophomore shuffles standings

The Allegheny Eight standings are suddenly the WPIAL’s tightest thanks to a sophomore quarterback making his second career start .

With would-be starter Dante Clay injured, Moon backup Tyler McGowan completed 10 of 17 passes for 111 yards and two touchdowns to defeat previously unbeaten Peters Township, 21-13.

Peters Township was the early Allegheny Eight favorite. But now Bethel Park (4-0) holds the conference lead with a three-way tie for second between Peters Township (3-1), Moon (3-1) and Upper St. Clair (3-1).

And don’t count out Baldwin (3-2), which is only a half-game behind. The Highlanders have a three-game winning streak for the first time since 2005.

3. Jaguars pass test

Thomas Jefferson’s starters often spend second halves on the sideline, but the offense just wouldn’t leave the field Friday night.

The Jaguars strung together a 14-play, 99-yard touchdown drive that consumed 9 minutes, 37 seconds and built a 28-3 lead at Central Valley.

“That was nice,” TJ coach Bill Cherpak said. “The thing that was nice about it was everybody — receivers, linemen, quarterback, running back — they all said, ‘Let’s pound it.’ Everybody was on the same page. We wanted to use the clock.”

The Jaguars took possession at the 1-yard line with 2:17 left in the third after a fourth-down, goal-line tackle by Daniel Deabner. The drive endured until the 4:40 mark of the fourth when Dylan Mallozzi scored on a 12-yard run.

“We needed a test this year,” said Mallozzi, who rushed for 156 yards and three touchdown on 21 carries. “We don’t get any better (as a team) winning 42-0 at half. We needed that.”

4. Running wild

Shenango junior Reis Watkins set a school record with 302 rushing yards in the Wildcats’ 49-14 victory at Ellwood City.

The 6-foot-3, 202-pound running back had 21 carries and scored three touchdowns on runs of 62, 27 and 7 yards. But Watkins wasn’t a one-man offense.

Sophomore quarterback Tino Campoli passed for 189 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a score.

Shenango is 5-2 overall, 3-2 in the Class 2A Midwestern.

5. Zero to hero

Four teams replaced the zero in the wins column this week. Frazier, Laurel Highland, Quaker Valley and Woodland Hills escaped winlessness with Week 6 victories.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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