Southmoreland craves return to playoffs

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Monday, August 16, 2021 | 6:01 AM


Enjoying his team’s demeanor more by the day, coach Dave Keefer watches the Southmoreland football team get ready for a voluntary workout on a warm summer evening at Russ Grimm Field.

“Up, down, up, down,” the fourth-year coach says, directing push-ups. “Keep going, keep working.”

And keep … laughing?

During a water break, a few players crack jokes, lightening the mood and even coercing a smile or two out of the coaching staff.

“This is my favorite team I have had here,” Keefer said. “They’re loose and fun, but they work hard. They’re just a fun group to be around. Our captains are great kids and play with a edge.”

Don’t worry, the Scotties plan to be all business when the season starts.

They know missing the playoffs last year after finally breaking through two years ago for their first postseason berth since 1979 was no laughing matter.

“It’s almost expected now,” senior lineman Kory Ansell said of playing past the regular season. “I mean, it was a big achievement when we made it for the first time in 40 years, but we don’t want to stop there.”

Southmoreland was 2-4 last year (1-3 in the Class 3A Interstate Conference) and just missed advancing to the WPIAL playoffs. The team wonders what might have happened if it had a couple more games on a season sawed off by the pandemic.

“A lot of them are hungry and want to get back,” Keefer said of his players. “They want to be successful. It’s always a goal to get back to the playoffs. It was more of a novelty to our community (in 2019).”

The most challenging loss will be replacing all-time leading passer Zach Cernuto, who graduated and is set to play H-back at Washington & Jefferson. The Scotties relied on Cernuto’s accuracy and running ability. He also led the team last season in rushing.

“I have been here four years, and Zach was my quarterback for three of them,” Keefer said. “He was a good one.”

His replacement will be senior Anthony Govern, who moves from a tight end/H-back position from where he led the team in receptions last season (29).

He was used out of the wildcat some last year, carrying 20 times for 104 yards.

“Anthony can run it pretty well,” Keefer said. “Zach could get us those tough yards, but Anthony is a different runner. He can break one. Our RPOs will be used more. He isn’t afraid to pull it down.”

But Keefer said Govern, a baseball pitcher, can fling it around, too.

“Rocket arm,” he said.

That means a talented pair of receivers should get into the offensive flow as the Scotties seek balance.

Seniors J.J. Bloom and Isaac Trout will be key targets and also play cornerback. Both will be third-year starters.

Trout had 20 catches last season. Bloom added 14, averaging 20 yards a grab.

Another senior, whom Keefer calls “the horse of the line,” is Ansell, a 6-foot-2, 285-pounder who will block on offense and wreak havoc at defensive end on defense. He is a potential Division I prospect.

“He is football smart and has loose hips,” Keefer said. “The kid can do a split.”

Keefer said the Scotties hope to run the ball more.

Keefer said several players were competing for starting jobs on the lines. Ansell is the only returning starter up front. Sophomore Aidan Corvin shows potential, as does junior Mason Neiderheiser. Senior Dontay Moore and junior Caleb Tkas also are in the mix.

At running back, senior Noah Phillips returns, with junior Tray Whetsel and senior Josh Bass, part of a co-op with Geibel, also competing for carries. Bass also should fit in as a weak-side safety in the team’s 3-5 defense.

Phillips is the top returning rusher with 186 yards.

Bloom, Trout and senior Travon Lee make up the rest of the secondary.

Rising sophomore Legacy Sands, who made some impressive plays last season, moved to Baltimore.

Ansell will line up at nose tackle alongside Bryson Robinson with Govern at defensive end.

Another addition from Geibel is Jeffrey Johnson, a junior running back and linebacker.

Trout, Govern, Bloom and Ansell are the captains.

The Scotties will play a new opponent in Week 2: Perry of the City League.

Southmoreland

Coach: Dave Keefer

2020 record: 3-3, 2-3 in Class 3A Interstate Conference

All-time record: 180-352-12

SCHEDULE

Date, Opponent, Time

8.27 McGuffey, 7

9.3 at Laurel Highlands, 7

9.9 at Perry, 7

9.17 South Allegheny*, 7

9.24 at Mt. Pleasant*, 7

10.1 Derry, 7

10.8 Yough*, 7

10.15 at Brownsville*, 7

10.22 Elizabeth-Forward*, 7

10.29 at South Park*, 7

*Conference game

STATISTICAL LEADERS

Passing: Zach Cernuto*

78 of 138, 1,066 yards, 10 TD, 3 INT

Rushing: Zach Cernuto*

75 carries, 235 yards, TD

Receiving: Anthony Govern

29 receptions, 365 yards, 4 TD

*Graduated

FAST FACTS

• Scott Brown is a new assistant with Dave Keefer. Brown was a fullback and linebacker at Southmoreland in the late 1970s. Those are the positions he will coach. “Tubby” Hall, the nephew of Jeannette coach Roy Hall, also is on the staff.

• Scotties all-time passing leader Zach Cernuto, now playing at Washington & Jefferson, threw for 4,797 yards and 44 touchdowns. His passing total ranks sixth all time in Westmoreland County.

• In their first home game, the Scotties plan to honor late teammate Brandon Peterson, who was killed in a vehicle accident last December. He was a standout receiver and defensive end.

• Multi-sport athletes are nothing new to this Scotties team. Seniors Anthony Govern and Kory Ansell are examples. Both are three-sport athletes; Govern also plays baseball and wrestles, while Ansell competes in baseball and track and field.

ROSTER

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

1, Travon Lee, 5-10 /160, Jr.

2, Trevell Clayton, 6-5/257, Sr.

3, Lanse Kessle, 5-8/155, Fr.

4, Ronnie Collins, 5-11/145, So.

5, Anthony Govern, 6-1/225, Sr.

6, Kadin Keefer, 6-3/190, So.

7, Josh Bass, 5-8/160, Sr.

8, Wyatt Richter, 5-11/145, So.

9, Tray Whetsel, 5-9/185, Jr.

10, Elliot Premus, 5-10/165, Fr.

11, Jake Kaylor, 5-10/150, Fr.

13, Ni-jaah Hager, 5-9/158, So.

14, Omari Tunstell, 5-7/160, Jr.

15, Kaiden Grady, 6-6/182, Jr.

16, Lily Wasmund, 5-2/140, Jr.

20, Austin Mough, 5-9/170, So.

21, Jeffrey Johnson, 5-8/194, Jr.

22, Isaac Trout, 5-10/170, Sr.

23, Noah Phillips, 5-7/200, Sr.

24, Cameren Phillips, 5-9/140, Fr.

25, JJ Bloom, 6-1/150, Sr.

30, Nick Dzambo, 6-3/180, Jr.

34, Bryson Robinson, 5-11/175, Sr.

41, Cole Teets, 5-5/150, Fr.

43, Michael Oravetz, 6-0/170, Jr.

44, Amani Tunstell, 5-10/180, Sr.

51, Phillip Wasmund, 5-11/248, Jr.

52, Kory Ansell, 6-3/285, Sr.

53, Jimmy Carson, 6-0/210, Fr.

54, Jeey Steban, 6-1/230, Jr.

55, Aiden Corvin, 6-1/215, So.

56, Kaleb Tkacs, 5-11/200, Jr.

57, Che Knopsnider, 6-1/215, Sr.

68, Makai Trout-Lewis, 5-9/165, So.

75, Ben Yeskey, 6-2/220, Sr.

77, Mason Neiderhiser, 6-0/260, Jr.

81, Cody Bateman, 5-9/140, So.

85, Lewis Mains, 5-9/165, Fr.

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

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