With playoffs on horizon, Southmoreland prepares for another test in No. 3 Belle Vernon

Wednesday, October 19, 2022 | 5:00 PM

The WPIAL playoffs don’t begin for another two weeks, but for the Southmoreland football team, they started Oct. 14 with a victory over Greensburg Salem.

The Scotties all but officially clinched their fourth trip to the postseason and, after a 40-year absence, will qualify for a third time in four seasons.

The Scotties (4-4, 2-1) take a two-game winning streak into Friday’s WPIAL Class 3A Interstate Conference battle with No. 3 Belle Vernon (5-2, 3-0) at James Weir Stadium.

The Leopards have won their last four games after dropping consecutive close contests to 4A McKeesport and 5A Penn-Trafford.

Southmoreland coach Tim Bukowski, who inherited the job after the death of Ron Frederick in January, had been on former coach Dave Keefer’s staff as offensive coordinator.

Bukowski also served as offensive coordinator at Clairton and was a former Monessen basketball assistant coach.

“Making the playoffs was a goal,” Bukowski said. “The future looks bright here. The junior varsity team is undefeated, and the middle school team has one loss. The midget league is also strong. Maybe we can win in the playoffs in the coming years.”

Bukowski said he was impressed how his team responded when faced with adversity.

“The way we beat Greensburg Salem by rallying to win was huge for the program,” he said. “We jumped out to a 15-0 lead and then watched them take a 21-15 lead. Previous teams here might have given up, but this team didn’t. They pulled together and found a way to win.”

The passing tandem of quarterback Kadin Keefer and wide receiver Ty Keffer has flourished. Keffer, a star basketball player, decided to play football this season.

Keffer has 58 catches for 855 yards and has scored 16 touchdowns. Keefer has completed 100 of 168 passes for 1,303 yards and 14 scores.

“We’ve had success offensively,” Bukowski said. “I didn’t know much about Ty because he hadn’t played football since midget league. But he’s been impressive. When the ball is in the air, he expects to make the combat catch. The group has adapted to the ‘Air-Raid’ offense.

“We’re going to Belle Vernon and try to do what we do best. It’s going to be a big challenge because Belle Vernon is really good.”

Bukowski also was impressed with the way the Scotties defense played by shutting down the Golden Lions in the second half.

Bukowski cited the play of inside linebackers Trey Whetsel and Bailey Kennedy, and sophomore defensive end Elliott Premis, who Bukowski said might be the best end in the conference

“Elliott has come out of nowhere in one year,” Bukowski said. “He was slow and clumsy as a freshman.”

While the Scotties are flying high after a 42-21 win against the Golden Lions, the Leopards are looking forward to their Week 9 showdown with No. 1 Elizabeth Forward, which will determine the conference title.

Belle Vernon coach Matt Humbert said he’s confident his team’s focus will be on Southmoreland this week.

“Everyone knows that if nothing crazy happens this week, the conference title will be decided at Elizabeth Forward next week,” Humbert said. “We just have to take care of our own business.

“We’ve faced multiple offenses this season, from McKeesport’s flex-bone to Thomas Jefferson’s I-formation and power running game to Mt. Pleasant’s wing-T and Greensburg Salem’s spread. So we’re ready for anything we face from Southmoreland.”

Since conference play has begun, the Leopards have averaged 52 points per game. They defeated Mt. Pleasant, 55-7, last week. In those three wins, the Leopards evoked the mercy rule when the second half began.

Belle Vernon has been led by superstar junior Quinton Martin, who scored five touchdowns against the Vikings, including a 79-yard interception return.

Jake Gedekoh scored twice, and quarterback Braden Laux rushed for a touchdown and threw a TD pass.

Martin has scored 15 touchdowns this season, and Gedekoh has added nine.

Humbert said he’s been pleased with the progress of Laux at quarterback and at defensive end. Wide receiver Chase Ruokonen has performed up to what’s expected, and linebackers Dom Sasko and Colton Lee have stepped in and performed well for the injured Tanner Moody.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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