Westmoreland football notebook: Laurel Highlands’ Gallagher next test for Southmoreland

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Thursday, September 2, 2021 | 12:24 PM


Southmoreland pulled somewhat of a surprise last week when it knocked off McGuffey.

The fact the Scotties won was impressive, but how they did it was even more so: big plays and balance propelled them to a 47-22 victory.

The final score echoed around the WPIAL.

But the celebration must be short-lived. That is because a win this week might garner more attention, thanks to one outstanding player the Scotties will try to bottle up.

The Scotties on Friday night will host Laurel Highlands and star junior Rodney Gallagher, a quarterback and defensive back who has been piling up Division I scholarship offers in football and basketball since he was a freshman.

The versatile Gallagher threw for 111 yards and two touchdowns, ran for 101 yards and two scores and intercepted two passes in a 44-14 win over Connellsville in Week Zero.

“He’s a pure athlete,” Southmoreland coach Dave Keefer said. “He has escapability and is a dual threat. He has great vision and can make a sudden change of direction.”

His offers for football include Pitt, Penn State, Notre Dame, Maryland and Wisconsin.

Elusive, strong and all over the field, like Belle Vernon’s Devin Whitlock, Gallagher can spell trouble if he gets to the perimeter.

“We can’t over pursue and over penetrate,” Keefer said. “We have to take away the cut-back lanes and also stay in our pass-rush lanes.”

Southmoreland, a Class 3A team, avenged a playoff loss to McGuffey from two years ago. McGuffey came into the game ranked No. 4 in 2A.

First-year senior quarterback Anthony Govern ran for three touchdowns and threw two more in the win for the Scotties.

Cadence at FR

One of the most impressive opening-night performances last week came from Franklin Regional senior Caden Smith, who showed his versatility and playmaking ability in a runaway win over Plum.

The film doesn’t lie.

The 6-foot-4, 185-pound Smith, a wide receiver and defensive back, returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown — one of his three picks in the game — and delivered a 64-yard score to Ayden Hudock on a trick play.

Hudock opened some eyes in the opener, too, flashing speed on an 82-yard kickoff return touchdown.

Smith is one of those athletes who seems to produce freakish moments in games. In basketball, he might drive the lane for a dunk or make an athletic steal or block. And in baseball, he tends to make a highlight catch in right field or rip a key hit in the biggest games.

He is a WPIAL champion in baseball.

“I was very impressed, but I knew he was capable,” Franklin Regional first-year football coach Lance Getsy said. “He is very smart and studies teams to allow himself to be in the right position.”

Revoir done for season

Derry senior running back Zack Revoir re-injured his knee last week against Latrobe and then made an emotional announcement to his teammates in the locker room after the game.

It was like he was announcing his retirement.

“He told the team he was done playing,” Derry coach Vince Skillings said. “Myself, his mom and our training staff had tried to convince him it’d be better if he didn’t play. I know I don’t want to see him in a wheelchair at 21. It was in his best interest, and we had his health in mind.”

Revoir injured his ACL in 2019 and tweaked it again last year. After surgery, he underwent rehabilitation, which Skillings said did not go as well as planned. When the tailback was hurt again on a buck-sweep late in last week’s 61-0 loss, it was time to make the painful decision: His season is done.

“He loves football, so it was a tough decision,” Skillings said. “He didn’t want to see it end this way. Neither did we.”

Derry also had some players fall ill last week. It was not covid-related, but Skillings said strep throat and heat exhaustion came into play.

“We hope to have those guys ready to play this week,” he said.

Positive outlook

One of the more bizarre matchups in Week Zero saw Greensburg Central Catholic, a Class A program, visit Class 5A Upper St. Clair.

As expected, Upper St. Clair won, blanking the Centurions, 38-0.

But GCC first-year coach Marko Thomas saw some things he liked from his team — aside from them not backing down from quite a challenge.

“Our defense didn’t play all that bad,” Thomas said, noting USC managed 215 yards of total offense. “We just kept giving them a short field. (The matchup) allowed us to play against a team with size and speed. It helped us to find out what we do well and what we needed to work on. We still have a lot to work on offensively.”

Lax matchup

Friday’s clash between Hempfield and Penn-Trafford will match two budding first-year starting quarterbacks, junior Jake Phillips of Hempfield and senior Carter Green of Penn-Trafford, both of whom won their debuts last week.

While both have strong arms and can run, they have something else in common. They both excel at lacrosse.

Green, in fact, has committed to play at Division II Seton Hill. Phillips said he hopes his future is in football.

Rank and file

Local teams did not move in the TribLive HSSN rankings after one week.

Penn-Trafford, which topped Norwin, 35-14, stayed at No. 2 in Class 5A, and Belle Vernon didn’t budge from the No. 2 spot in 4A. The Leopards scrimmaged last week instead of opening with a game.

Extra points

Belle Vernon sophomore standout Quinton Martin is expected to visit Pitt on Saturday for the Panthers’ season opener. … Senior Nate Harris made some impressive plays last week for Norwin against Penn-Trafford. Harris is new to the area, which is why some people had not heard of him. He transferred from Bethel Park. … Penn-Trafford coach John Ruane needs three wins for 100 in his career.

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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