South’s Bragalone sets school rushing mark in win over Canton

His family first feared Polio. A young Dominick Bragalone dodged that illness, but doctors still told his family he would never run fast or excel at sports. They even started fitting Bragalone for the kind of leg braces Forrest Gump wore in the 1994 Oscar winning film.

In a script taken right from that movie, a little more than a decade later if one listens closely they can hear South Williamsport fans now shouting, “run Dominick, run!”

The boy who was given no chance has turned into a powerful running back who runs as fast as just about any District 4 player. The boy whose legs once looked deformed now stands alone in South history.

Running behind a dominant offensive line, Bragalone gained a Mountie single-game record 301 yards and scored four touchdowns Friday at Rodney K. Morgans Stadium while leading South to a 49-21 thumping of Canton. Bragalone broke the 30-year record of 285 yards held by Rob Gair, topped 200 yards for a second straight week and scored three of his four touchdowns on runs of 26 or more yards.

“I don’t really remember it, but sometimes I’ll think about it and thank God for everything. I’m just so thankful for what I have now,” Bragalone said. “It (the record) is awesome. That’s my goal, to get all the records I can in the school and hopefully play after high school.”

The scary thing is that Bragalone basically is a work in progress. The 200-pound junior with 4.4 speed in the 40 did not play as a freshman and learned on the job last year while running for 746 yards and 10 touchdowns. He did that for a District 4 Class A runner-up without ever having lifted a weight.

Bragalone started hitting the weights hard last January and thus far has been unstoppable. He has run for 513 yards and seven touchdowns, helping South start 2-0 for a second straight year.

“We made a conscious effort to get him going in the offseason and he really worked hard at it,” South coach Chris Eiswerth said. “He has goals obviously, and we want to keep him moving forward because he has a lot of talent. He’s a kid that can do some great things.”

So can the South offensive line.

Ian Niklaus, Noah Martin, Nick Keeler, Cody Nelson, Sam Buck and tight ends Tyler Schonewolf and Josh Wein were sensational, paving the way for 486 yards, including 401 on the ground. The line set the tone early and South scored on six of its first seven possessions, taking a 42-0 third-quarter lead. The Mounties scored on all but one first-half drive and led 35-0, inflicting the mercy rule against a team that had stymied a good Muncy team’s running game a week ago.

“Our whole line, all across the team, it’s like a brotherhood,” said Niklaus, who also shined defensively. “I know a lot of teams say that, but we’re all close friends. We’re all really glad to help the team out.”

Quarterback Matt Boone and receiver Riley Hengler played well, connecting five times for 80 yards. Boone hit Hengler in stride down the left sideline on the game’s fifth play for a 45-yard touchdown as South took a 7-0 lead.

Bragalone hurdled a defender near the line of scrimmage on South’s next possession and went 86 yards untouched for his first touchdown, doing so untouched. He scored two more times in the first half, the last coming from five yards out as South took a 35-0 lead and gained 326 first-half yards.

South ran only one play in the third quarter but Bragalone made it count. The powerful tailback swept right and into history. The line again made sure he was untouched and Bragalone again outran the entire Canton defense, speeding away for a 75-yard touchdown that made it 42-0.

“I can’t even remember anything. People ask me about the plays and I don’t know because it happens so fast,” Bragalone said. “The line is great and I feel like if there’s a hole I can at least make someone miss and if I get out in the open I feel like I can take it.”

The South defense hit Canton players as hard as Bragalone hit the holes and the starters did not allow a point. The Mounties made three fourth-down stops in the first three quarters and the front four dominated the line of scrimmage. First-time player Anthony Caruso was a force up front while outside linebacker Sean McCormick and safety Jon Pulizzi were all over the field, making big plays.

It was another step forward for a team that lost the majority of its starters from last year’s 10-2 team but that looks as dangerous as ever.

“A lot of people think last year we had Brandon Stonge and some great players and that it was a one-year thing. We’re showing them that it’s not like that,” said Niklaus, who added a sack. “We’re hear to stay. We started a program and we’re keeping a good program.”

The program has been boosted by the addition of some first-time players like Caruso, Ryan Foran, Riley Thomas and Brett Garbrick. Foran, who played soccer until this year, took his first scholastic carry 78 yards for a third-quarter touchdown and also returned the game’s opening kickoff 39 yards.

“We really don’t have to say much to them,” Eiswerth said. “They come, they do their thing and work hard and it’s real enjoyable. It’s nice for the community and the school.”