Strong 2nd half performance leads Southmoreland past McGuffey

Friday, August 25, 2023 | 11:24 PM

What a difference 20 minutes can make.

Handcuffed by turnovers, penalties and lack of execution, Southmoreland went to the locker room at halftime trailing by six points to visiting McGuffey.

A different team emerged from the halftime break, scoring six touchdowns and riding the legs of Da’sjon Cragette to a 34-6 win over the Highlanders.

Cragette rushed for 217 yards and two touchdowns, accounting for most of the Scotties’ 287 yards of offense on the night.

Southmoreland coach Tim Bukowski described Cragette as “the total back. He has a little bit of everything.”

With senior Austin Mough sidelined with an ankle injury, Cragette and Cam Phillips did most of the running for Southmoreland (1-0).

But in the first half, it was McGuffey that had the upper hand, outgaining the Scotties, 78 to 71 yards. The Highlanders took the lead on a 2-yard scoring run by Dylan Duboj that capped a 16-play drive after the Highlanders recovered a Scotties fumble at the Southmoreland 40 midway through the first quarter.

While the Scotties defense had a large part in the victory, a roughing the passer infraction on fourth down kept the Highlanders’ scoring drive alive, and Duboj scored six plays later.

A bad snap foiled the conversion kick as McGuffey led 6-0.

McGuffey intercepted Scotties quarterback Kadin Keefer twice in the first half, the first by Nate Romestan and the second by Ryan Keith. That started a 21-yard drive but a 38-yard field attempt was wide left as the half expired.

McGuffey (0-1) sacked Keefer three times in the first half, and a pair of holding infractions short circuited another potential drive.

Southmoreland took charge after McGuffey took the second half kickoff.

The Scotties held McGuffey at its own 33 and Connor Crowe’s short punt set Southmoreland up at the Highlanders 40.

Cragette carried three times for 24 yards before Keefer’s keeper from 8 yards to the end zone tied the score. Jake Kaylor’s kick put Southmoreland ahead for good at 7-6.

On the next series, Cragette broke free for a 62-yard scoring run on the third play. Although a bad snap foiled the conversion, the Scotties led 13-6.

The Scotties held McGuffey on downs with big plays from Stanley Chapman and Aidin Corbin to set up a 43-yard scoring drive, capped by a 20-yard touchdown from Keefer to Wyatt Richter for a 20-6 lead with the conversion by Kaylor.

McGuffey drove into Southmoreland territory before Makai Trout-Lewis recovered a fumble at the 32.

On the next play, Cragette rambled 68 yards down the right sideline for the touchdown that gave the Scotties a 27-6 lead.

Gabe Kubasky capped the scoring on a 48-yard interception return to the end zone with just over one minute to play.

The win was Bukowski’s first in Week Zero. He emphasized that, “There are always some jitters when the games begin. As coaches, we’re anxious too on seeing how our players react.”

Southmoreland outgained McGuffey, 287 to 169, with Duboj having the most yards for the Highlanders at 52.

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