MUNCY - South Williamsport players literally walked out of the fog while celebrating a huge win Friday night on what had once been a field of horrors.
Everything around him looked like a dream and felt like a dream. All Chris Eiswerth could do was smile because this was real. The fog has finally lifted over this program and if the 6-1 record entering Friday did not already prove it, last night's result did.
South football is officially back.
Brandon Stonge of South Williamsport tries to shake off Muncy’s Jake Colburn Friday at Muncy.
Running behind a dominant offensive line, Brandon Stonge, Dominick Bragalone and Matt Bartholomew all topped 100 yards and South physically manhandled Muncy, winning 50-20 at Stanley Schuyler Stadium for the first time since 1999. Considering the opponent, it might have been South's biggest win this century and it puts the Mounties in the driver's seat to win the NTL Small School championship. If the Mounties defeat Cowanesque Valley and Montgomery the next two weeks, the championship and possibly a home district playoff game is theirs.
"It's like, 'pinch me.' It's like a dream," Eiswerth said. "I told these guys, 'you want to be playing in a big game against a good team on television. That's why you bust your butts at 8 in the morning all through the summer,' and they get it."
Stonge (15 carries, 209 yards), Bragalone (13-148) and Bartholomew (16-109) all scored twice and consistently gashed one of the area's best defenses. All three players scored first-quarter touchdowns on runs of 40 or more yards and South (7-1, 3-0) led 22-0 less than eight minutes in.
All three running backs are outstanding on their own. Add in Tyler Schonewolf, Dylan Johnson, Justin Knee, Marco Estrella, Brock Steppe and tight end Heath Newcomer, controlling the line of scrimmage and South had an unbeatable blend. The Mounties ran for 475 yards, gained 506 and produced four touchdowns of 40 or more yards. Stonge also became the first South player to top 1,000 yards since 2007.
"Knowing the implications, we were really excited to play this game," said Schonewolf, who also was outstanding defensively. "These are the games that we like to play. These are the ones we remember. It's pretty special."
"We all went into it knowing it was more than just a normal game. We knew it was something bigger," said Bartholomew, whose 40-yard touchdown made it 22-0. "The line does everything they can do for us. All of us (the running backs) have something different to bring and we all come together as a team and it's great."
Muncy (5-3, 3-1) showed a lot of heart and pulled within 22-14 early in the second quarter when Anthony Barberio hit T.J. Moyle with a 35-yard touchdown. The Indians then had South stopped for a three-and-out but a running into the kicker penalty on a 4th-and-3 punt extended South's possession and changed the game's complexion.
One play later, Stonge broke off a 26-yard run and Muncy leading rusher Troy Hembury suffered a game-ending injury when he was kicked in the head by a teammate. Five runs later, Bartholomew was in the end zone again. The Indians were not saved by the bell either as South ran eight straight times on its next drive and went up 36-14 when Stonge scored from 2 yards out with 33 seconds remaining in the half.
"They took it to us early and we got it back but that roughing the kicker was big. We had them staggering, but instead of Troy being out maybe he's in there running," Muncy coach Jay Drumheller said. "That was pivotal and than they punched it in at end of the half and that was big too. We did a nice job coming back but that takes a lot of emotion out of you and they just played a great game."
Moyle scored again on a dazzling 40-yard third-quarter touchdown run in which he ran over three defenders, cutting the deficit to 36-20 but it was all South from there. As quickly as Muncy gathered momentum, South's offensive line and running backs stifled it. Bragalone took a third-down toss to his left, turned the corner and sped away for a 46-yard touchdown. A drive later, Stonge ran over a series of defenders on a 40-yard run, highlighting an impressive 86-yard drive that culminated with a House 1-yard touchdown.
All three running backs displayed their strengths repeatedly. Stonge ran over and away from defenders, Bragalone showed a potent blend of speed and power and Bartholomew displayed good vision, agility and quickness.
"Our backs are some of the best in the area," Schonewolf said. "They make it easy for us."
The line made it easy for them as well and played its best collective game.
South's defense was strong too. Other than on the Moyle touchdown run, South did an excellent job wrapping up ball-carriers. Billy Rummings intercepted a pass and made a touchdown-saving breakup while Schonewolf, Tyler Jenkins and Ian Niklaus all were outstanding up front. Sam Buck had a sack that snuffed out a Muncy drive and linebackers Justin Knee and Sean McCormick combined for 14 tackles.
It was a team effort by what is quickly becoming one heck of a team.
"These guys just fight, fight and fight. They're tenacious," Eiswerth said. "Everybody works so hard."
Jacob Colburn played a good game for Muncy, making a team-high 11 tackles while Barberio threw some nice passes and finished with 115 yards.