AA: Mount Carmel at South Williamsport football preview

Mount Carmel facts: The Tornadoes have won four of their last five games and come surging into the playoffs after routing Shamokin, 42-14. The Tornadoes overcame a 20-point third-quarter deficit in their opener against Loyalsock, winning 42-41 in overtime. They then turned their season around with a 21-14 win at Danville. Mount Carmel features a dangerous offense led by a dual threat quarterback similar to the one that gave South’s defense problems last week. John Ayres is an 1,100-yard passer who also leads the team in rushing with 798 yards and 13 touchdowns. Ayres ran for 152 yards and three touchdowns against Shamokin while throwing for 97 yards and a score. Running back Lane Tanney is also a dangerous runner who doubles as the team’s leading receiver and had eight catches for 123 yards in a 2-point, Week 4 loss at Montoursville. Tight end Wesley Shurock caught three touchdowns against Loyalsock, including the game-winner and averages 22.1 yards per catch. The defense has made huge improvement during the season’s second half and had 15 tackles for loss against Shamokin. Linebacker Manus McCracken averages a team-high 8.7 tackles per game and has eight for loss while freshman Craig Reichard has intercepted three passes. Mount Carmel scored 28 first-half points against undefeated Southern Columbia in a Week 3 loss.

Mount Carmel player to watch–Mike Hood: Another talented sophomore on this young team, Hood has emerged as an outstanding linebacker who frequently gets into the backfield. Hood has a team-high six sacks, including 2 1/2 last week. He also has 11 hurries and eight tackles for loss.

South facts: The Mounties finished the regular season 9-1 for a fourth time in five years and have won eight straight games. South also captured its fifth straight league title, going undefeated in the HAC-III and beating Loyalsock and Hughesville by 29 combined points. South has navigated a difficult schedule in strong fashion and held off No. 6 Line Mountain, 41-33 last week. The Mounties answered every time Line Mountain threatened a big early lead and won despite allowing its most points this season. Gideon Green returned from injury and ran for 148 yards and two touchdowns, most coming in the second half. Ashton Martin is a strong complement to Green and has run for 211 yards and two touchdowns the past two weeks. The offensive line is one of the district’s best and has helped South average 256 rushing yards per game. Sophomore quarterback A.J. Flick is becoming more of a weapon and has thrown three touchdown passes the past two weeks. Aaron Guerrisky is an excellent receiver who makes difficult catches and who is averaging 26.5 yards per catch. The defense did a nice job slowing Line Mountain’s run game but struggled against the pass last week. Defensive linemen Connor Rutan, Reilly Barnes, Pat West and Chevy Bolay all have had strong seasons. Linebackers Jacob Yoas and Chris Klem have had breakout seasons and sophomore safety Hunter Finn has two interceptions.

South player to watch–Connor Rutan: An all-state offensive lineman last year, Rutan has had another outstanding season up front on both sides of the ball and is one of South’s most valuable players. Rutan has received some Division I interest and has helped South win 29 games in three years as a starter.

Winner plays: No. 7 Hughesville or No. 2 Wellsboro

Outlook: This is one of the night’s marquee games and is a true coin toss. South must not just play well up front, but play good, assignment defense against an offense led by a mobile quarterback. Expect this to be a physical and exciting game all night.