Southmoreland believes it is closing in on end of playoff drought

Monday, August 19, 2019 | 11:26 PM

As an alum and second-year coach, Dave Keefer is all for recognizing high points in the history of Southmoreland football — even if one such commemoration captures a frustrating and cumbersome streak in full perspective.

The Scotties’ run of missed playoff trips hits a milestone this season, and Keefer couldn’t be happier about it.

The droning deadpan continues: Southmoreland has not appeared in the WPIAL postseason since 1979.

“It’s the 40th anniversary,” Keefer said. “Us and the Pirates.”

Place your bets on which team will break through first. Keefer likes his Scotties’ chances better than the Pirates’ to win another World Series.

“We’re into the second year with our guys, and they understand the system and what we’re trying to do,” Keefer said. “I am very pleased with the progress we’ve made (in the offseason). This is the time to get it done. I think we can.”

Southmoreland finished 4-6 last season but won only two Class 2A Interstate Conference games and finished three games out of a playoff spot.

While the Scotties boasted one of the highest-scoring offenses in the WPIAL — they scored 72 points against Shenango and 59 against Blairsville — they routinely struggled to slow the other team.

Opponents averaged 33.5 points, and the Scotties rolled up 33.2 out of their no-huddle spread offense.

“That’s a big thing with us,” Keefer said. “We have to stop people. We have been focusing on our defense. We’re working in some new people.”

Most of the go-to playmakers, however, will not be new.

Junior quarterback Zach Cernuto returns to lead the offense. He threw for more than 1,900 yards and 19 touchdowns, completing 47 passes to big-play wideout Riley Comforti, who returns for his senior season.

The pair can continue to be a dynamic duo.

Cernuto (6-0, 175) has a quick release, and Comforti (6-2, 170) can route-run and jump with the best receivers in the classification.

“We’re not going to slow down our offense, that’s for sure,” Keefer said. “We’re still going to be high-speed, spread it out and get the ball to a lot of people. Zach is more mature with a year in this offense. He makes a proper read and gets it out of there. And with Riley, we know they’ll bracket him. They did that last year, too. Our offense evolved as the year went on.”

Cernuto, who will have more run-pass option opportunities, also has tight end Brandon Petersen at his disposal. The 6-foot-4, 205-pound senior had 25 receptions and four touchdowns last season.

Gone is 1,000-yard running back Ronnie Robinson (14 TDs), who could provide a big play and kept the Scotties honest and balanced.

Potential replacements include senior Colt Harper (300 yards, 6 TDs) and sophomore Anthony Govern.

“It will be a running back-by-committee situation,” Keefer said.

Shoring up a front line could be what puts the Scotties over the top. Four graduated starters need to be replaced.

Jacob Poole could be the center, and juniors Kameron Ambrisco and James Skyrpak, and sophomores Brady Hawse, Kory Ansell and Matt Rodriques also figure in as blockers.

“Our guys up front need to play well for us to have success,” Keefer said.

Colt Firmstone is another returning starter who will provide a two-way presence.

On defense, Petersen and Firmstone will be bookends for a run-stopping front line, and Harper and Govern will look to provide a push at linebacker.

Cernuto could see more time on defense, as a hybrid-linebacker, strong safety spot. Comforti is the free safety.


Coach: Dave Keefer

2018 record: 4-6, 2-5

All-time record: 172-343-12


8.23 at Mt. Pleasant 7

8.30 Frazier* 7

9.6 Carmichaels* 7

9.13 at Beth-Center* 7

9.20 at Brownsville* 7

9.27 McGuffey* 7

10.4 Charleroi* 7

10.11 at Shenango* 7

10.18 Washington* 7

10.25 at GCC 7

Statistical leaders

Passing: Zach Cernuto

129-255, 1,909 yards, 19 TDs

Receiving: Riley Comforti

47-714 yards, 9 TDs

Rushing: Ronnie Robinson*

168-1,202 yards, 14 TDs


Southmoreland roster

No., Name, Pos., Ht./Wt., Cl.

3, Colt Firmstone, TE/DE, 6-3/190, So.

5, Anthony Govern, TE/LB, 6-0/185, So.

9, Colt Harper, RB/LB, 6-1/220, Sr.

10, Zach Cernuto, QB/LB, 6-0/175, Jr.

11, Riley Comforti, WR/DB, 6-3/185, Sr.

14, Brock Potoka, WR/DB, 5-11/160, So.

15, Brandon Peterson, WR/DB, 6-4/190, Sr.

20, Anthony Stewart, RB/DB, 5-7/160, So.

21, Mason Basinger, WR/DB, 5-11/175, Jr.

22, Isaac Trout, WR/DB, 5-9/160, So.

23, Riley Constantine, WR/DB, 5-9/155, Fr.

24, Ben Baker, RB/LB, 5-9/170, Fr.

25, Jason Bloom, WR/DB, 5-11/155, So.

30, Trayvon Lee, RB/DB, 5-7/140, Fr.

32, Trey Whetsel, RB/LB, 5-7/140, Fr.

35, Austin Hunker, WR/LB, 5-5/152, So.

43, Mike Oraretz, WR/DB, 5-6/135, Fr.

44, Bret Huffman, RB/LB, 5-10/210, Sr.

50, Dontay Moore, OL/DL, 6-2/260, So.

51, Phil Wasmund, OL/DL, 5-9/220, Fr.

54, Joey Steban, OL/DL, 5-9/203, Fr.

55, Logan Todd, OL/DL, 6-1/180, Sr.

56, Kaleb Tkacs, OL/DL, 5-9/161, Fr.

58, Frank Skyrpak, OL/DL, 5-8/175, Fr.

64, Brady Hawse, OL/DL, 6-2/275, So.

65, Jake Poole, OL/DL, 5-11/275, Jr.

68, Kory Ansell, OL/DL, 6-3/367, So.

71, Kameron Ambrisco, OL/DL, 6-0/283, Jr.

73, Mason Maharowski, OL/DL, 5-9/247, Fr.

74, Matthew Rodriques, OL/DE, 6-2/265, Jr.

77, Mason Neiderhiser, OL/DL, 5-8/219, Fr.

78, James Skyrpak, OL/DL, 6-1/281, Jr.

82, Andrew Rodriguez, K/P, 6-1/170, Jr.

83, Richard Fasano, TE/LB, 5-9/187, Jr.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at or via Twitter .


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