The South Williamsport offensive line has taken a toll on teams all season, helping the Mounties gain nearly 3,000 rushing yards. That line is a big reason, South will play in Friday's District 4 Class A championship against Southern Columbia.
Look for the primary reason that unit has been so successful and one might find it Monday-Thursday at South's practices.
Every practice, that line goes against a young defensive line featuring all underclassmen. Every practice, that line also is pushed by a series of young defenders who might not play a lot on Friday's but who make sure everyone else is.
"A big thing is we have a lot of great underclassmen and we're able to work with them so that keeps our seniors fresh," said Marco Estrella, one of five senior offensive line starters. "We get off on defense so we go in on offense and have a fresh start. It's really nice to have that break and it makes it easier for us to push."
That push all the underclassmen provide also keeps South focused all week. Games often are won not on Friday, but from Monday-Thursday and those young players are helping prove it. South was dominant in all areas Friday at Rodney K. Morgans Stadium, pounding Bloomsburg, 32-16 while physically overwhelming a team that had been playing as well as any in District 4.
It's a cliche, but that was a total team effort. Even those that did not see the field made an impact. Now, those young players can take as much pride as the senior starters, knowing they have helped South become one of the district's best programs again. The Mounties (10-1) are outright league champions for the first time since 1999 and Friday they won their first playoff game since the 1997 state semifinals.
"Our young guys come out every week and come out and give these guys a good look," South coach Chris Eiswerth said. "Without that we could never get to this point, this level. It's just unbelievable and those kids come out and do a great job."
SPREAD THE WORD: Bloomsburg had won eight of nine games since losing to South in its season opener and had beaten HAC-I champion Danville and HAC-II champion Danville the past two weeks. Quarterback Ricky Kingerman had thrown for 2,388 yards and 24 touchdowns and the Panthers looked unstoppable at times.
Many outside the South locker room might have been in awe, but the Mounties never were. South played against that spread offense not only in the season opener, but also the two previous weeks. Bloomsburg might have an explosive offense, but the Mounties have quite a defense too.
Bloomsburg gained only four first-half yards and did not earn its first first down until midway through the third quarter. The defense was sensational at all three levels and defensive backs Andrew Gipe, Billy Rummings, Jon Pulizzi and Sean McCormick held John Klingerman, one of District 4's all-time leading receivers to just one catch-late in the fourth quarter off a deflection-for 16 yards.
It also helped that South counteracted Bloomsburg's explosiveness with some old-school toughness as the linebackers flew around and defensive linemen like Tyler Schonewolf, Tyler Jenkins, Sam Buck and Ian Niklaus owned the line of scrimmage.
"The last couple weeks Cowanesque Valley ran the spread and Montgomery spreads it out and throws all over so it hit us in the meetings that what we've been doing last two weeks and in Week 1 was getting a lot of reps and guys were comfortable playing those sets," Eiswerth said. "All the coaches did a great job getting the kids ready, they had their techniques down and played extremely well."
PAVING THE WAY: Minutes after Montoursville completed its dramatic come-from-behind 37-33 District 4 Class AA quarterfinal win at Lewisburg, quarterback Aaron Cole wanted to talk more about his offensive line than himself. Cole was brilliant, throwing for 267 yards, but he knew offensive linemen Cody Chilcot, Brett Trimble, Mikey Signor, Lucas Shaheen and Ben Cerney helped make that all possible. Without their stellar blocking, Montoursville would have been turning in its uniforms Monday.
"The line gives me so much time to hit the weapons we have," Cole said. "I really want to thank the line for that."
Montoursville trailed 33-21 with 5:33 remaining and Lewisburg knew the Warriors were going to be passing on nearly every play from that point on. Still, Lewisburg never touched Cole down the stretch-or much throughout the game for that matter-and the Warriors scored two touchdowns in quick fashion while winning one of the most exciting games in their rich program's history.
The line is a big reason Montoursville (8-3) has won four straight games and will host Mount Carmel in Friday's semifinals. That unit helped Montoursville gain 399 yards, score five touchdowns and reach the red zone seven times.
"We knew our line was going to get us an extra game," said fullback Matt Krezmer, who caught the game-winning 37-yard touchdown pass. "They keep everything going. They keep our offense going and they keep us moving."
EXTRA POINTS: Muncy wide receiver Ken Koch had a career night in Friday's 42-21 Eastern Conference playoff loss to Northwest. The sophomore caught eight passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Anthony Barberio threw for a career-high 260 yards and three scores ... Central Mountain quarterback concluded a brilliant scholastic career in a 42-25 loss at State College, totaling 213 yards and two touchdowns. He is the area's only quarterback to run for and pass for 1,000 yards in the same season this century. Walker finished with 1,566 rushing yards, 1,202 passing yards and accounted for 23 touchdowns. ... Walker's favorite receiver Cole Renninger nearly reached 1,000 yards, finishing with 42 catches for a program-record 938 yards. He topped 100 yards for a second straight week against State College.