Mounties show pass presence to complement powerful ground game
HUGHESVILLE — As Chevy Bolay and Cole Lentz sped by defenders on consecutive second-quarter plays, almost every Hughesville defender pursued South Williamsport running back Gideon Green. Quarterback A.J. Flick hit both receivers in stride for touchdowns as South started blowing open the game and offering a potential scary defensive dilemma.
South can throw the ball really well now, too.
South does not have to put up video game passing numbers or throw the ball early and often. But if it continues making a few key pass plays a game behind a dominant offensive line and with a strong running game accompanying it, good luck stopping the Mounties. Hughesville certainly could not Friday at Harold L. Shaeffer Field.
Flick hit Bolay and Lentz with consecutive second-quarter touchdown passes and added another to Lentz in the third quarter as South scored 48 straight points, made a big statement and thumped Hughesville, 54-13 on Military Appreciation Night. The offensive line again was overpowering and Gideon Green was sensational, running for 194 yards and two touchdowns. It is that passing success, however, that can make South even more powerful.
“Last year we couldn’t pass the ball well and this year it gives us a dual threat,” two-way starting lineman Griffyn Metzger said. “It’s awesome to see.”
“It makes us a lot more dangerous, considering last year we set up our outside run with our inside run,” fellow two-way starting lineman Reilly Barnes said. “Now that we have the pass to go to, it opens up a whole new way for us to play and really make defenses pay for it.”
After Hughesville opened a quick 7-0 lead, Green broke off touchdown runs of 56 and 58 runs as South went ahead to stay. Chris Klem’s blocked punt and Ashton Martin’s subsequent 20-yard return made it 21-7. Instead of going conservative to protect its lead, South unleashed its passing game and extended it.
Flick hit Austin Nash for a 20-yard completion and three plays later he sucked in the entire defensive front as he faked to Green. Bolay sped down the sideline, caught the pass and carried a defender into the end zone for a 33-yard score. Following a Luke Winner interception and 38-yard return in the second-quarter’s final minute, Flick rolled left as the defense again bit on the fake and hit a wide-open Lentz in stride for a 27-yard touchdown Just like that, South completely broke open what had been a close game against a tough opponent and built a 35-7 halftime lead.
Green ran for 173 yards in the first quarter but when Hughesville sent the house trying to stop him, Flick and his receivers kept making plays. It continued in the third quarter when Lentz put on a brilliant double move and Flick hit him with an 18-yard touchdown. It was the second time in three weeks that Flick threw three touchdowns as an already potent offense continues growing.
“Flick gives us an added dimension and that’s coming together for us and giving us more diversity,” South coach Chris Eiswerth said. “They are pinching every play and they’re bringing guys up and saying, ‘we’re not going to let you run in the a gap, b gap or the c gap. Flick and the addition those guys have really helped. It’s been amazing to watch.”
Hughesville looked capable of pulling the upset when it forced a 3-and-out on South’s opening possession and then went 47 yards on nine plays, eight runs, to take a 7-0 lead on Jase Wright’s 5-yard touchdown run. Turns out, all that really did was refocus South and help it elevate its collective performance. South piled up 261 first-half yards and the starting defense did not allow another score, surrendering just 111 yards and forcing a turnover, a turnover on downs or a punt on Hughesville’s last nine series against it.
“We knew if we kept playing the way we were it wasn’t going to be much of a fun night for us,” Barnes said. “We knew we just had to get back out there and start pounding the ball the way we do and start playing the hard-nosed defense that we know we can play.”
South’s starters shut down the run before exiting late in the third quarter and never gave quarterback Ori Shaner time to throw. Ben Johnson hurried Shaner three times into incompletions, Martin had a sack for a 10-yard loss and Klem was sensational, making 10 tackles, including two for loss. Barnes added nine tackles and South shined at three levels, bottling up a Hughesville offense that produced 351 yards and 31 points last week.
Metzger, Barnes, Johnson, Dakota Hill, Rion Withers, along with tight ends Bolay and Klem, dominated the line of scrimmage offensively and South scored touchdowns on seven of its last nine series. Martin put the mercy rule into play when he ripped off a dynamic 45-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter. Martin was hit near the line of scrimmage, but ran over a defender then sped by the rest.
“We realized we weren’t in the swing of it after that first touchdown. We all just came over and said we have to pound the ball down their throats and go at them hard,” Metzger said. “We started rolling over them and it was pretty different from the beginning of the game.”
Gage Avery provided a bright spot for Hughesville, running for 115 yards and a touchdown. Avery is a converted offensive linemen who is becoming a nice weapon for the Spartans. He carried six times for 39 yards on the opening scoring drive and capped his strong performance with a 4-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown.
South’s reserves responded to that by showing the future looks bright as well. Zack Miller capped a 72-yard drive, scoring on a 9-yard touchdown run.
“The guys we’re like, ‘let’s get this thing going and it was like a bomb went off,’ and it was a complete effort by everyone,” Eiswerth said. “It was a great win. It was a great night for football for a great cause for all those people that serve us.”