With playoff drought over, Southmoreland seeks better finishing kick

Sunday, September 6, 2020 | 11:13 PM

Southmoreland was the big story during the first half of the 2019 football season.

The Scotties were unbeaten at 5-0 and qualified for the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since 1979. Yep, the Scotties ended a 40-year drought.

They were the talk of the town and had Scottdale, Everson, Ruffsdale, Alverton and East Huntingdon buzzing. The buzz didn’t stop, but the Scotties’ win total did.

The Scotties ended the season with six consecutive losses, including a 41-0 playoff setback to eventual WPIAL Class 2A champion Avonworth.

It wasn’t the way Southmoreland coach Dave Keefer hoped the season would end.

“We lost a couple games that we could have won,” Keefer said. “We lost a game to Greensburg Central Catholic on a muddy field, and we had a couple players who didn’t get dirty. I was mad about that.”

But that’s the past. Keefer and his squad now are focused on the 2020 season and a new challenge. The Scotties are back in Class 3A with rivals Mt. Pleasant and Yough. They also will face Brownsville, South Park, Elizabeth Forward and South Allegheny.

While graduation took away much of the offense, the Scotties return four-year starter Zach Cernuto at quarterback and four of five starting linemen.

Cernuto completed 126 of 235 passes for 1,792 yards and 15 touchdowns. An area Keefer wants to see improvement is taking care of the ball. Cernuto threw 18 interceptions.

Graduation did take Cernuto’s top two targets — Riley Comforti (63 catches for 965 yards and 9 touchdowns) and Brandon Peterson (23 for 664 and 8).

Also gone is leading rusher Colt Harper, who gained 783 yards and scored 21 touchdowns.

Junior tight end Anthony Govern will play a big role in the offense. He rushed for 110 yards and caught 21 passes for 215 yards. He also threw three touchdown passes. Keefer likes his versatility.

Replacing Harper is a challenge, but Keefer is looking at sophomore Trayvon Lee and junior Anthony Stewart to fill that role.

Cernuto’s targets at receiver will include senior Mason Basinger and junior Isaac Trout.

“We have to do a better job finishing,” Keefer said. “We have to form a different identity. Last year, we didn’t step up to the late-season challenges.”

With Cernuto and a veteran line of center Jacob Poole, guards Corey Ansell and Cameron Ambrisco and tackle Matt Rodriguez back, the Scotties offense could be in good hands.

“Zach is a natural team leader,” Keefer said. “He deserves all the hype. He knows what every player is supposed to do on the field.

“The team is already where we want to be as a program. We just want it to continue to build.”

On the defensive side, Keefer returns numerous starters, including Govern at middle linebacker, Basinger and Cernuto at outside linebacker, junior Colton Firmstone at defensive end and defensive backs Trout and J.J. Bloom.

“It’s exciting to play against some rivals,” Keefer said. “We just have to continue to grow.”


Coach: Dave Keefer

2019 record: 5-6, 4-3 in Class 2A Century

All-time record: 177-349-12

Date, Opponent, Time

9.11, South Park*, 7

9.18, at South Allegheny*, 7

9.25, Mt. Pleasant*, 7

10.2, at Derry, 7

10.9, at Yough*, 7

10.16, Brownsville*, 7

10.23, at Elizabeth Forward*, 7

*Class 3A Interstate Conference game

Statistical leaders

Passing: Zach Cernuto

126-135, 1,792 yards, 15 TDs

Rushing: Colt Harper*

173-783 yards, 21 TDs

Receiving: Riley Comforti*

63-965 yards, 9 TDs


Fast facts

• Scottdale and East Huntingdon merged in 1964 to form Southmoreland.

• Southmoreland grads Russ Grimm and David Trout played in the NFL in the 1980s. Grimm was a quarterback in high school and ended up a center in the NFL for the Redskins. Trout was a kicker for the Steelers. The Southmoreland football stadium in Alverton is named after Grimm.

• Southmoreland is 0-2 in the WPIAL playoffs. The Scotties lost to Avonworth in 2019 and Penn Hills, 31-0, in 1979.

• The Scotties defeated rival Mt. Pleasant, 27-14, to open the 2019 season. Now the teams are back in the same conference.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at pschofield@triblive.com or via Twitter .


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