Southmoreland defense swarms Yough in shutout

Friday, October 9, 2020 | 10:05 PM

Southmoreland turned a potential shootout into a shutout.

The Scotties showed up in a big way defensively, forcing four turnovers and putting together a balanced offensive gameplan on the way to handling Yough, 24-0, in a Class 3A Interstate Conference game Friday night at Cougar Mountain Stadium in Herminie.

Senior quarterback Zach Cernuto completed 9 of 17 passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns, and the defense, led by hard-hitting linebackers and a well-positioned secondary, intercepted three passes and limited Yough to 9 yards rushing in the first half.

Yough showed offensive pop last week when it rallied against Mt. Pleasant in a 43-32 loss, leaving some to believe the Cougars and Scotties might go score for score until the last possession or misfire.

But the Cougars couldn’t get around a defense that often looked a step ahead.

Juniors J.J. Bloom and Isaac Trout each had a touchdown catch and an interception for the Scotties (3-2, 2-2), who improved to 3-0 on the road.

“We were very confident with our defense coming into tonight,” Southmoreland coach Dave Keefer said. “We knew if we could key on their three main guys, we’d have a good chance to win. Our defense played great, and we ran the ball better than we have all season.”

Yough (1-4, 0-4) was outrushed 184-84.

“They brought some heat,” Yough first-year coach Chris Chunko said. “We have to be able to play better with that pressure coming. Southmoreland played better than us tonight.”

Southmoreland remains in the playoff race as it looks to extend its season for the second year in a row. It made the postseason last year for the first time in 40 years.

The top four teams in the conference make the WPIAL playoffs.

“We came out very intense on defense,” Cernuto said. “We knew we made to make tackles and stop their three best players. The past couple weeks we kind of struggled on defense, so we’re looking to amp that up.”

Both teams turned it over on downs early and played to a scoreless first quarter before the Scotties found their footing.

Cernuto, who also rushed for 50 yards, rolled right to buy time and waited for Bloom to spring open, then delivered a strike to the junior for a 44-yard scoring play for a 7-0 lead with 10 minutes left in the second quarter.

Yough turned it over for the second time in three drives when Yough quarterback Gamal Marballie fumbled and Cernuto recovered early in the second quarter.

Later in the quarter, Cernuto again ran wide and lofted a pass over the top to Isaac Trout, who made a lunging grab in the end zone to make it 14-0 with 6 minutes, 16 seconds to play in the half.

“We like to sprint out,” Cernuto said. “It helps our line and receivers, get them into space. … It’s run-pass option. J.J. ran a great route and got open.

“The receivers find the right holes at the right place.”

Cernuto escaped from a rush on 4th and 2 and found Trout to keep the drive going.

The three players Southmoreland was referring to were Marballie, C.J. Waldier and Tarek Crosby. Marballie was held to 15 yards rushing, Waldier caught five passes for 60 yards and Crosby, a promising freshman, rushed for a game-high 71 yards.

Marballie completed 10 of 22 passes for 116 yards but the three interceptions were tough to overcome.

Late in the first half, the Scotties truncated a 10-play Yough drive that reached the Scotties’ 6. Bloom picked off Marballie in the end zone.

“We had bracket coverage on their guys and didn’t go man much,” Keefer said. “Our guys were in the right places to make plays.”

Southmoreland drove deep into Cougars’ territory and fumbled. Yough appeared to recover, but the play was blown dead and then reversed and the Scotties got it back. A Cernuto pooch punt, though, gave it back to the Cougars on a 4th and 31.

“It was an inadvertent whistle,” Chunko said. “It happens. It ended up not hurting us.”

Trout intercepted Marballie on the next possession, and it only took the Scotties three plays to put more points on the board. Anthony Stewart raced 50 yards for a score with 8:47 to play to make it 24-0.

Trout had returned the pick for a touchdown but the score was wiped out by a penalty.

“We’re trying to get that run-pass balance,” Cernuto said. “It’s going to help our offense altogether.”

Mason Basinger also had an interception for the Scotties.

Anthony Govern had 70 all-purpose yards (35 rushing, 35 receiving) in the win.

Crosby also had five catches for 52 yards for Yough.

“We moved him to tailback and he is really coming into his own,” Chunko said of Crosby. “We’re trying to find ourselves after moving some guys around.”

Yough lost quarterback Tristan Waldier to a season-ending knee injury two weeks ago and had to move Marballie to quarterback, leaving an opening for Crosby.

Senior Andrew Rodriguez kicked a 26-yard field goal to give the Scotties a 17-0 lead at the half.

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

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