Rivals Southmoreland, Mt. Pleasant set for Interstate Conference showdown

Wednesday, September 22, 2021 | 6:30 PM

Since Dave Keefer took over the Southmoreland football program in 2018, the Scotties have won two of three meetings with rival Mt. Pleasant.

The year before his hiring, the Vikings scored 64 points against the Scotties in winning their 12th straight in the series. Many of those games weren’t close.

Now that the Scotties have stopped that streak, they are looking to continue turning their fortunes. Mt. Pleasant won the 2020 meeting 13-10, so Keefer wants to start a new streak.

The teams face off at 7 p.m. Friday at Mt. Pleasant in a WPIAL Class 3A Interstate Conference battle.

“It’s not a hated rivalry,” said Keefer, who was an assistant coach at Mt. Pleasant during his coaching career. “It’s fun. It’s a healthy rivalry. I live in Mt. Pleasant.

“We’ve talked about the rivalry at practice, and we’re making it fun. I’m sure through social media and players have had some exchanges back and forth between both teams. I’m looking forward to the game.”

Since Mt. Pleasant (2-2, 0-0) and Southmoreland (3-1, 1-0) began playing football in 1964, the Vikings have dominated the rivalry. The schools are five miles apart, and some of the students live across from one another where Mt. Pleasant borough and East Huntingdon Township meet.

Mt. Pleasant leads the series 38-8 and had winning streaks of 15 and 12 games. The Scotties, winners in 2018 and 2019, never have won three consecutive games against the Vikings.

Southmoreland enters the game on a two-game winning streak after defeating Perry Traditional Academy and South Allegheny in the conference opener.

Mt. Pleasant, after opening the season with easy wins against Burrell and Derry, played up in class the past two games, losing to Class 4A Greensburg Salem and Class 5A Latrobe.

“Hopefully in a few weeks, we will look back at those games and say they were learning experiences,” Mt. Pleasant coach Jason Fazekas said. “Those games showed us we have to play better.”

The Vikings dropped a 35-0 decision to Latrobe last week and played without starting quarterback Tyler Reese. Starting running back Robbie Labuda’s playing time was limited after he suffered an undisclosed injury.

Fazekas said he expects to have a full depth chart available for the conference opener.

“Because of the closeness of the two schools and the importance of the game in the conference, it shouldn’t be hard to get the team up for the game,” Fazekas said. “They should be motivated to face a good opponent.”

Southmoreland is led by senior quarterback Anthony Govern, wide receiver Issac Trout and lineman Corey Ansell.

Govern accounted for five touchdowns against South Allegheny last week, rushing for three scores and throwing for two more. Govern rushed for 107 yards and completed 7 of 18 passes for 160 yards.

Govern has completed 36 of 64 passes for 575 yards and six touchdowns. He has rushed for 272 yards and scored nine touchdowns this season.

“He’s doing everything well,” Keefer said of the quarterback. “He’s passing the ball well, and last week he threw a few blocks down field. He’s putting up the numbers. He’s one of the top quarterbacks in the WPIAL.”

Fazekas said Southmoreland is playing well and with confidence.

“The quarterback is a dual threat,” Fazekas said of Govern. “We have to try to limit what he does.”

Mt. Pleasant also has a dual threat in Reese, if he plays. Freshman Cole Chatfield drew the starting assignment against Latrobe.

If Reese plays, his running ability gives the Vikings a triple-threat in the backfield with Labuda and Aaron Alakson. The Vikings prefer to run the ball.

“They have a nice running game,” Keefer said of the Vikings. “Labuda and Alakson are a nice one-two punch, and anytime you get a quarterback that can run, that scares you.”

Southmoreland opened some eyes by dominating McGuffey in Week Zero. Even though the Scotties then fell to Laurel Highlands, Keefer said the speed the Mustangs and Perry possessed will be beneficial in the long run.

“The game slowed down when we played South Allegheny,” Keefer said. “I like my team’s cohesiveness. You don’t have to do anything to motivate them.

“They are self-motivated, even at practice and conditioning, they are competitive against each other. They are racing to see who beats each other. They are laughing all the time when they’re doing it, they are so loose. It’s good chemistry.”

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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